[January 15, 2014]WASHINGTON — The San Jose Sharks must be
beginning to wonder if they'll ever lose to the Washington Capitals.
Facing them for the first time this season, the Sharks beat the
Capitals 2-1 Tuesday night when center Patrick Marleau beat Capitals
rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer for the only goal of the shootout
at the Verizon Center.
Since 1999, the Sharks are 17-1-0 in their last 18 games against the
Capitals, including six straight wins.
"There's no special ingredient," said Marleau, one of four Olympians
on the Sharks. "I think it's just one of those things where it's
been going our way for a while. They are always tight games so it
could easily go both ways."
Goaltender Antti Niemi was the difference for the Sharks, stopping
35 shots through regulation and overtime, then turning aside
shootout attempts by left winger Eric Fehr, right winger Alex
Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom.
"It's huge because we've been struggling a little bit on the road,"
said Niemi, referring to the Sharks losing three of their previous
four games away from the Shark Tank. "I think when we play such a
high-scoring team we know we have to protect the middle and not give
Grubauer (28 saves) took the loss for the Capitals, who have lost
five straight games decided in extra time. They are 2-0-2 in their
Ovechkin and Sharks right winger Tyler Kennedy scored the game's
only goals in regulation.
"It was a good test for us," said Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with
33 goals. "They're a good team. They've been together for a long
time. I think we had good chances to win the game in regular time."
Fehr had two chances to win the game during one shift in overtime.
He hit the right post on an open shot, then was stopped by Niemi on
a partial breakaway.
The two teams entered the third period locked in a 1-1 tie and both
teams had excellent chances to take the lead in regulation.
Niemi stopped Fehr on the doorstep with 9:51 remaining, then robbed
center Mikhail Grabovski on a semi-breakaway with five minutes
The Sharks' best chance to take the lead came with 9:30 remaining
when right winger Mike Brown hit the right post on a backhander.
The Sharks entered the game with the most first-period goals in the
NHL (51) and they added to that total to take a 1-0 lead on a goal
by right winger Tyler Kennedy. The former Penguins agitator parked
himself in the high slot and deflected a hard pass from defenseman
Jason Demers past Grubauer for his fourth goal of the season and
first since Nov. 23.
The Capitals answered in the second period on Ovechkin's
league-leading 33rd goal of the season. Ovechkin was positioned near
the outside of the left circle when he one-timed a pass from
defenseman Karl Alzner just under the crossbar. The goal gave
Ovechkin six points in his last six games.
"That was a fantastic shot," Oates said. "I mean, that's him."
The Sharks thought they had taken a 2-1 lead in the closing seconds
of the second period when defenseman Brad Stuart knifed the puck
under the pads of Grubauer. But after a video review, it was
determined the puck crossed the line just after the game clock
Although the Sharks mimicked the Capitals' top-ranked power play at
Monday's practice, they didn't have the chance to use their penalty
kill until 1:15 remained in regulation when Marleau tripped
Grabovski from behind.
The Capitals failed to convert, with Niemi making a timely save on
Ovechkin, who finished with just three shots.
NOTES: Sharks RW Mike Brown and Capitals LW Aaron Volpatti bloodied
each other in a second-period fight. Both players received stitches
and returned to the game. The Sharks were without two of their top
six scorers. C Logan Couture (14 goals, 21 assists) is sidelined
two-to-three weeks after undergoing surgery for an upper-body
injury, and rookie C Tomas Hertl is out with a lower-body injury
that required surgery on Dec. 31. ... The Sharks have committed the
fourth-fewest penalties in the NHL this season, averaging 9.1 a
game. They have the fewest minor penalties in the NHL and have spent
a league-low 198 minutes on the penalty kill this season. The Caps
have accrued the third-most penalties in the league, averaging 13.2
a game. They have spent 271 minutes on the kill. ... The Capitals
will be on the road for eight of their next nine games, beginning
Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Penguins handed the Capitals a
4-0 setback in their first meeting of the season. ... The Sharks
continue their three-game road trip on Thursday against the Florida
Panthers, then head to Tampa to face the Lightning on Saturday.