Grubauer strong as Capitals hold off Lightning
WASHINGTON — Phillip Grubauer, the backup goalie for the Washington Capitals, was winless this season going into a Friday night showdown with the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning.
And it didn’t look good when Grubauer gave up a goal just 82 seconds into the contest.
“Kind of a tough start,” said Alex Ovechkin, the Washington standout forward.
But Grubauer buckled down and didn’t allow a goal the rest of the way as the Capitals beat Tampa Bay 3-1. The win came a day before his 26th birthday on Saturday.
“My parents are in town again,” said Grubauer, who is from Germany. “It was a great team effort. We didn’t give them much. If you play like that you are going to be up there with (Tampa Bay). Every game we play we learn from our mistakes. That is the goal; for the most part we have figured it out.”
A demanding four-game road trip got off to a sluggish start for Tampa Bay,
Despite being outshot 30-16 in the first two periods, the first-place Lightning had a chance to tie the game in the third period before they pulled their goalie with the score 2-1.
“Teams are not going to lay over in this league,” Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos said. “We know what we are capable of.”
The game was the first of four straight road contests for Tampa Bay. The Lightning play Saturday at Pittsburgh, Tuesday at Buffalo and Wednesday at Boston.
“In the end you have to give a full 60 minutes and I don’t think we did that tonight,” said Tyler Johnson, a Tampa Bay forward who played 20 shifts. “In the end it is all about the effort.”
Devante Smith-Pelly scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Capitals.
Washington took a 2-1 lead with 5:24 left in the second period as Smith-Pelly scored on a rebound off a shot by Jay Beagle to beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy just in front of the net. It was the third goal of the season for Smith-Pelly — and his first since November 6 — and the 100th career point for Beagle.
Beagle scored his first goal since late October when his empty netter with 2:08 left in the contest gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay (16-4-2) lost eight of its last 10 games against Washington. The Lightning dropped their last five games in Washington and have not won in the nation’s capital since 2014.
Even so, it took Tampa Bay just 1:22 to get on the scoreboard and take a 1-0 lead on a power play. Vladislav Namestnikov scored his 10th goal of the season with assists from Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman to beat Grubauer.
Washington (13-10-1) appeared to be too bloated on Thanksgiving turkey in the first period, as it misfired on several scoring chances in front of the Tampa Bay net during two-on-one advantages.
After several near misses Ovechkin drilled in a one timer from the left side to tie the game at 1-1 with 1:24 left in the first period. It was the team-high 15th goal of the year for Ovechkin while assists were recorded by Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom, who turned 30 on Thursday.
The goal got past Vasilevskiy, who entered the game with a league-high 15 wins.
But the Lightning netminder responded midway through the second period with a glove save on a missile fired by Ovechkin and the game remained tied. The Tampa Bay goalie also made a nice save on a breakaway by Jakub Vrana with 6:00 left in the contest.
Grubauer entered the game 0-5-1 in eight contests with six starts. He came through with saves on shots by Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson near the net with 12:32 left in the second period.
The Capitals outshot the Lightning 16-7 in the first period and 38-26 overall.
The Capitals now play Saturday in Toronto.
“Everyone is in good shape. Everyone can do it,” Smith-Pelly said of the back-to-back games.
NOTES: Tampa Bay D Braydon Coburn, who played in his 800th career game Friday, has 14 assists in his career against Washington — the most against any foe. ... Tampa Bay claimed F Chris Didomenico off waivers from the Ottawa Senators on Friday. The Toronto native played in 12 games for Ottawa this season and has played in 15 career contests. ... The Capitals are now 7-1 at home this month and play five of their next six in Washington. ... Tampa Bay D Jake Dotchin (undisclosed injury) did not play Wednesday in a home overtime win against Chicago and did not play Friday.