Quick Links

St. Louis, Brewer score twice in Lightning win

201301192009725596569-p2.jpeg

St. Louis, Brewer score twice in Lightning win

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Martin St. Louis and Eric Brewer each scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 6-3 in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.

St. Louis added an assist, while Vincent Lecavalier and Cory Conacher also scored goals for the Lightning.

Joel Ward scored twice and Wojtek Wolski also had a goal for the Capitals, who lost in Adam Oates' NHL coaching debut.

St. Louis' drive from above the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 advantage at 4:47 of the third. Conacher, who had an assist in first NHL game, scored his first goal to extend the lead to 5-3 with 6:36 to go. Brewer scored his second goal late in the third.

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

NHL Power Rankings: Bye week blues

The schedule makers did the Capitals no favors in their return from the bye week. They returned with a road game at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Detroit, then had to play the New York Rangers on Sunday at 12:30 p.m., less than 24 hours after the game against the Red Wings started.

That would have been tough at any point in the season. Having that back-to-back coming out of the bye week was a raw deal.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

The record across the NHL for teams returning from the bye is 3-12-4. Many may argue this is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions from and that's probably true. Claiming every time a team loses out of the bye that it's because they have been off for a week is an easy excuse. Every team has to play the schedule it's given. Nashville had a similar challenge to Washington, playing a back-to-back out of the weekend against Minnesota and Columbus with both games on the road. The Predators, however, managed a win in the second game.

But still, the NHL needs to be smarter with how it schedules after the bye. No team should have to play a back-to-back in their first two games back, period. If that record continues to get worse, then the leauge will have to adjust to ensure teams coming out of the bye play each other. Otherwise they are giving a competitive advantage to the opponent and to any team that ends up with multiple games against teams in their first game back.

You can't blame the schedule for Washington walking away from this weekend with only one point. That's on them. But, you also can't argue that the schedule put them at a disadvantage for Sunday's game when they played a Rangers team that had been off since Thursday in New York less than 24 hours after the puck dropped in Detroit.

With two losses in their return, the Caps relinquished the top spot in this week's NHL Power Rankings. Find out how far they fell and who took their place here.

Quick Links

Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

Philipp Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

NEW YORK—Philipp Grubauer didn’t get the ‘W’ Sunday at Madison Square Garden, but his scintillating 28-save performance against the Rangers still managed to bolster the backup’s standing as the NHL’s best No. 2 netminder.

Grubauer, in fact, now leads the league in quality start percentage (.786), having posted 11 quality starts in 14 opportunities. The guy right behind him? Wild starter and Vezina Trophy favorite Devan Dubnyk, who boasts a .756 quality start percentage in 45 opportunities.

“Grubi has got a lot of the tougher starts, the back-to-backs, and he’s accepted that and he’s come out and played well,” Coach Barry Trotz said.

Indeed, Grubauer was called upon early and often in Sunday’s game as he stopped 18 of the Rangers’ 19 first period shots. It was the second game of a back-to-back set for the Caps, and it included a quick turnaround and no morning skate.

RELATED: Power Rankings: Bye week blues

Trotz acknowledged that the Caps’ post-bye week schedule factored into the goalie rotation over the weekend. The team practiced on Friday, then hit the road for back-to-back matinees in Detroit and New York. That meant no morning skate in either city. And because Holtby, who is also having a strong season, prefers to face shots during the morning skate prior to a start, the staff decided to tap him against the Red Wings since the starter against the Rangers would go two days without the benefit of a morning skate.

Which, of course, is the sort of thing that happens to backups.

“We thought [Grubauer’s] mindset would be much better to handle that than Braden, who is used to being in there all the time,” Trotz explained. “[Grubauer] was very accepting of that. He’s played fantastic for us this year.”

Grubauer said the Caps’ slow start against the Rangers actually helped him get back into the groove following six days off and the team’s challenging weekend schedule.

“It was good to get into the game, but that’s not the way we want to start,” he said. “You’ve got to find your rhythm again and it helped to get a couple of [quality] shots early.”

Trotz said the game could have been “5-0 in the first period, not 1-0” without Grubauer. And his players agreed.

“Grubi was outstanding, in the first especially,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.

Nicklas Backstrom added: “Grubi kept us in there in the first period. He kept us in the game there. We were lucky we were only down a goal. It could have been more, but he made some huge saves.”

Performances such as that one have helped Grubauer rack up some outstanding numbers. Overall, the 25-year-old German is third in both save percentage (.932) and goals against average (1.98) among goalies with at least 15 appearances. In addition, he’s got three shutouts, including two in his last six starts.

It also seems likely that Grubauer will hear his number called frequently down the stretch with five sets of back-to-backs remaining. With 14 starts already this season, he just two behind the career-high he established last year.

MORE CAPITALS: Vrana reassigned as Sanford makes most of his opportunity