Line Changes Help Capitals End Losing Streak

Posted on January 10, 2014 by Ken Maguire

The Washington Capitals halted a four-game losing streak behind forward Eric Fehr's two goals, the second with less than a minute to play, during a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning Jan. 9.

As the Capitals (21-16-6) prepare to host the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 10 and the Buffalo Sabres Jan. 12, here are some takeaways from their win at Tampa Bay.

Fehr has scored the winning goal during the Caps' past two victories.

Against the Lightning, he redirected Washington defenseman Mike Green's wrist shot past Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback with 52 seconds remaining during regulation. His first-period goal on a pass from Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin tied the game, 1-1.

On Dec. 27, Fehr's goal with 5:09 to play gave the Caps a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers. Washington then lost its next four games.

Fehr has eight goals and 11 assists during 34 games. All of his goals, and all but one assist, have come at even strength.

After a slow start, with stints on the fourth line, Fehr was a healthy scratch for much of November. Since Nov. 23, Fehr has seven goals and six assists. During 41 games last season, Fehr had nine goals and eight assists.

Capitals head coach Adam Oates recently split up the successful Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom duo, with the goal of giving the team two high-scoring lines that would be hard to defend.

The "second" line of Fehr, center Mikhail Grabovski and Ovechkin produced two even-strength goals and was a force.

Ovechkin had point-blank chances, but missed, as the line spent much of its ice time in the offensive zone. With Ovechkin drawing so much attention, Grabovski was able to possess the puck and skate freely.

Backstrom centered Brooks Laich on the left and Troy Brouwer on the right. They had a rough start -- less than five minutes into the game, a Brouwer turnover led to Lightning center Tyler Johnson's breakaway goal on Washington goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The line of Backstrom, Laich and Brouwer was also on the ice when Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat's redirect tied the game, 3-3, with 5:30 to play.

The Capitals had 20 shots on goal, five of which came during the third period. At even strength, Backstrom's line had four shots, and Ovechkin's line had seven.

The Capitals scored on two of their three power-play opportunities.

Grubauer, a rookie, had another strong game Jan. 9. He stopped 33 shots and improved to 6-2-3 this season season. 

Perhaps his best save of the night came early during the third period, with the Caps nursing a 3-2 lead. On a two-on-one shorthanded bid, Palat took a pass and shot, but Grubauer stretched his right pad across the crease for the save.

"We had multiple chances to take the lead, and we didn't," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told reporters after the game. "Their goalie came up big. He made some big-time saves."

But Grubauer probably wanted the second goal back. He had a good look at Tampa Bay forward B.J. Crombeen (eight fighting majors), whose snap shot from the right circle beat him stick side during the second period. It was Crombeen's first goal of the season.

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