Capitals collect rare win in San Jose
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Washington Capitals spoiled a clinching party and extended their hopes for at least one more night.
Center Nicklas Backstrom and rookie left winger Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the shootout and goalie Braden Holtby stopped two of three shooters as the Capitals beat the Sharks 3-2 on Saturday to win in San Jose for the first time in 13 games dating to October of 1993.
"This win should spur us on a bit," Capitals left winger Jason Chimera said. "It's a feather in our cap. We knew what was at stake right from the get-go. It was good effort."
San Jose needed two points to clinch a 10th straight Stanley Cup playoff berth.
"We would have liked to have had both points, but you have to look at how we played," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "I thought we played solid defense against a solid offense. You play 82 games and you are going to have some of those bounces."
The point enabled the Sharks to take a three-point lead over idle Anaheim in the Pacific Division and pull within three of the Boston Bruins for the race for the President's Trophy.
Washington, which had the only five shots in overtime, extended its point streak to five games (4-0-1) to move within three points of the third-place Rangers in the Metropolitan Division and tied Detroit for the second wild-card spot.
"We probably should have won the game, but we didn't," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We just have to continue getting points. With 10 games left, every point is going to be important from here on in."
It was a particularly frustrating night considering both of Washington's goals deflected in off San Jose defensemen.
The Sharks rallied from an early one-goal deficit only to permit the tying goal late in the third. And after going on a power play with just over two minutes left, San Jose failed to convert despite keeping its No. 1 unit on the ice for the entire advantage.
"They play hard. They stick strong with big bodies," San Jose forward James Sheppard said. "They get to pucks first and crash and bang down there. They're a great team and they never gave up."
Sheppard scored his third goal of the season on a breakaway at 5:07 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Left winger Jason Chimera's whirling attempt from the boards struck Sheppard in the skates, and he raced in alone before beating Holtby with a backhand shot between the pads on the Sharks' first shot of the period.
But the Capitals scored their second goal off a Sharks defender to tie it at 2 at 12:30. Right winger Tom Wilson separated defenseman Scott Hannan from the puck behind the goal and left winger Dustin Penner passed out front to center Chris Brown, whose first NHL goal caromed off defenseman Dan Boyle and past goalie Antti Niemi.
"It was a pretty special feeling, but we got the win and that's the most important," Brown said
Sheppard said, "They got a couple of lucky bounced on those goals you don't usually see, especially in a 2-1 game. Sometimes that happens."
San Jose outshot Washington 16-6 during a scoreless second period in which it dictated play but could not take advantage.
The Sharks scored with 5.6 seconds left in the first period to escape with a 1-1 tie. San Jose right winger Matt Nieto intercepted a pass by defenseman Mike Green intended for defense partner Jack Hillen behind the Capitals' net before centering to left winger Patrick Marleau. The veteran scored his 30th goal in close past Holtby.
A miscue by the San Jose defense earlier in the period allowed the visitors to score first.
Defenseman Justin Braun turned the puck over behind the Sharks' net, allowing the Capitals to cycle before center Eric Fehr eventually put a soft shot on Niemi, who made a right pad save. But Bruan's clearing attempt ricocheted off of his teammate Nieto's leg and back into the goal at 11:25. Fehr was credited with his 12th goal.
"We just stayed patient," Chimera said. "They move around a lot, so you have to be wary of them. You have to limit their chances and block when you have to. And, as always, your goaltender is your best blocker."
NOTES: Washington G Jaroslav Halak did not start Saturday because of a lower-body injury but dressed as Braden Holtby's backup. Halak had played every minute of seven straight games after dressing as a backup at Boston on March 6, the day after getting traded from Buffalo to Washington. ... The Sharks are 15-1-1 when RW Brent Burns scores a goal this season. ... Washington had last won in San Jose on Oct. 30, 1993. The Caps had lost 11 and tied one since. ... The Sharks are still playing without D Brad Stuart (upper body), RW Raffi Torres (right knee) and LW Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery). RW Tyler Kennedy and D Matt Tennyson were healthy scratches. ... LW Aaron Volpatti (upper body), C Mikhail Grabovski (sprained ankle), D John Erskine (upper body) and C Brooks Laich (groin) remain out for Washington and D Connor Carrick was a healthy scratch.