Wednesday, January 15, 2014
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Sharks earn shootout win over Capitals

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[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 too much."

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 last four.

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 remaining.

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.

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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 expired.

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.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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