Bot­tom-six for­wards rise to top for Caps


The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY IS­ABELLE KHURSHUDYAN

mon­treal — The shots were skilled. They could have been called snipes in hockey par­lance. Pucks were launched into the top of the net­ting, sail­ing up and over Mon­treal Cana­di­ens goal­tender Carey Price.

They were the kind of goals ex­pected from the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ top-six for­ward stars. In­stead, they both came from Wash­ing­ton’s bot­tom-six, once again speak­ing to the team’s depth. A pair of flashy shots from Jay Bea­gle and An­dre Bu­rakovsky put the Cap­i­tals ahead in their 3-2 win over the Cana­di­ens. Nick­las Back­strom’s third-pe­riod power-play goal stood as the game-win­ner af­ter Mon­treal made a late push.

“Two re­ally nice snipes, and then my muf­fin,” Back­strom said with a smirk.

“That’s sort of been the key to our suc­cess, that when the other teams are shut­ting down some of our other lines, the [Lars] Eller line or the Bea­gle line steps up,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s been the se­cret for us, the depth of our team.”

depth can’t be much of a se­cret any­more with the Cap­i­tals atop the NHL stand­ings with 76 points. Goal­tender Braden Holtby con­tin­ued his mas­tery of Mon­treal — 10-1-2 in his ca­reer — with 20 saves, many com­ing against qual­ity scor­ing chances late in the game.

With the game tied to start the sec­ond pe­riod, Brett Con­nolly car­ried the puck up the left side of the ice be­fore a pre­cise cross-ice pass to Bu­rakovsky in the right face­off cir­cle. From there, Bu­rakovsky wristed it over Price’s shoul­der with his quick re­lease to give Wash­ing­ton a 2-1 lead 9:26 into the pe­riod.

Eller started the break­out that led to Bu­rakovsky’s goal, giv­ing him a point against the team that traded him to Wash­ing­ton this past sum­mer. With the Cap­i­tals, Eller has cen­tered a third line that has caught fire since the start of Jan­uary and has pro­vided a sec­ondary scor­ing boost that the team was miss­ing at times last sea­son.

“It’s huge when you have four lines that are rolling and every­one is play­ing good and pro­duc­ing,” Back­strom said. “You need help from every­one to be suc­cess­ful.”

Af­ter Mon­treal’s Alexan­der Radulov was called for hook­ing 3:53 into the third pe­riod, Back­strom’s wris­ter from the point on the power play gave Wash­ing­ton a two-goal lead. That was needed in­sur­ance af­ter Max Pa­cioretty’s goal with 12:11 left got the Cana­di­ens within one.

Less than a minute later, Bu­rakovsky went to the box for high­stick­ing. Wash­ing­ton’s penalty kill had al­lowed at least one power-play goal in six straight games en­ter­ing Satur­day’s game, but it shut out the Cana­di­ens to pre­serve the win. Much of the credit be­longed to Holtby, who was pep­pered with 10 shots in the third pe­riod af­ter see­ing just 12 in the first 40 min­utes.

“Once they got the sec­ond goal, I thought they had a lit­tle push there,” Trotz said. “. . . Braden’s al­ways the guy who can back­stop us when we need it. Those are tough games, when you’re not re­ally get­ting a lot of work and all of a sud­den they have a lit­tle flurry.”

The Cap­i­tals took the lead with their first shot. En­ter­ing the zone, Daniel Win­nik found Bea­gle in the high slot, and Bea­gle beat Price on the glove side 3:02 into the game. Known more for his grind­ing de­fen­sive work, Bea­gle is hav­ing a ca­reer year of­fen­sively, with that 11th goal and 21st point mark­ing ca­reer highs. The way Bea­gle scored — a puck lofted into the top of the net­ting against one of the league’s best goal­tenders — spoke to the sur­pris­ing of­fen­sive up­side of Wash­ing­ton’s fourth line.

But Wash­ing­ton’s hot start cooled when Holtby pointed out a hole in the dasher board be­hind his net. A ref­eree de­ter­mined that the hole was in­deed large enough for a puck to po­ten­tially van­ish into it, so an 11-minute de­lay enThat sued as Bell Cen­tre staff re­placed the yel­low base­board.

“I just turned around and saw a hole in the boards,” Holtby said. “I don’t even know when it hap­pened. I’ve never seen that be­fore.”

Roughly two min­utes af­ter play re­sumed, the Cap­i­tals strug­gled to get the puck out of their own zone. De­fense­man Nate Sch­midt’s pass was in­ter­cepted, and Radulov cap­i­tal­ized with a wris­ter past Holtby to tie the game 7:32 into the first pe­riod.

Radulov thought he had a sec­ond goal in the sec­ond pe­riod, drop­ping to his knees in an epic cel­e­bra­tion. But it was im­me­di­ately waved off be­cause Pa­cioretty was ruled to have in­ter­fered with Holtby. That kept Wash­ing­ton up by Bu­rakovsky’s goal at the time.

“When the top two lines are not scor­ing, we need other guys to step up,” Bu­rakovsky said. “I think we proved that to­day.”


The Caps’ Jay Bea­gle, left, chases the puck along­side Nathan Beaulieu. Bea­gle set ca­reer highs with his 11th goal and 21st point.

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