WASHINGTON (AP) — Philipp Grubauer starts rarely enough that he doesn’t want to show his face when he loses. He can show it plenty until his next chance.
Grubauer stopped a season-high 38 shots to shut out the Los Angeles Kings as the Washington Capitals ended Peter Budaj’s shutout streak in a 5-0 rout Sunday. Washington snapped Los Angeles’ winning streak at five and Budaj’s shutout streak at 147:21 in winning its third game in a row.
Despite being outshot 38-20, the Capitals were opportunistic in shelling Budaj, limiting quality chances and relying on Grubauer to make the routine saves.
“He doesn’t get in there all the time, but when he does he’s just been really good,” said Brett Connolly, who scored his 10th goal of the season. “There was a couple times we turned the puck over and they had a good chance in front and he was there to bail us out.”
Grubauer denied Marian Gaborik from close range in the second period but didn’t have to make too many 10-bell saves for his third shutout of the season. Coach Barry Trotz liked the team defense in front of Grubauer, who compared the new NHL-mandated slimmer goalie pants to “European skinny jeans.”
“The guys did an amazing job keeping (shots) to the outside today,” Grubauer said. “I don’t think we gave up too many Grade-A chances.”
The Kings did.
They left Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams wide open on their goals, and Connolly was in all alone on a semi-breakaway to score his. T.J. Oshie’s goal popped the cap off Budaj’s water bottle, sending water flying and adding insult to injury.
Budaj, who leads the NHL with seven shutouts, was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots in two periods. He had stopped all 39 shots in his past two starts, but this loss was more on the Kings’ defensive miscues than their goaltender.
“When you don’t manage the puck well and give them opportunities to score, they’re going to score,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “You give them a little space and they capitalize on that. That’s the danger, and we gave them too much space.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said no one wants to get into an All-Star Game against the Capitals because the Kings are “not in that class.” When the Capitals are getting this kind of goaltending and depth of scoring, few teams in the league are.
Washington leads the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference by seven points and is five up on the Minnesota Wild in the Presidents’ Trophy race that also comes with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Trotz said the team isn’t thinking about the standings but is focused on each game.
Good thing for the Capitals that with Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby and Grubauer, they have a goalie they can turn to each game who can steal points if needed.
“Both goalies are tremendous,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I think we have best duo in the league. When Holts have a break, Grubi stepping up and show he can be tremendous as well.”
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