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Capitals vs Kings Recap: Brouwer and Holtby Wipe Floor with the Champs

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A few tweaks to the forward ranks, and a few hours later the Capitals played arguably their best game of their year against the last group of players to hoist Lord Stanley's preferred chalice.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Los Angeles Kings spent their Monday celebrating the win of all wins with the Commander in Chief, but arrived at the Verizon Center perhaps in as much need of a win as the team that would be hosting them. Unfortunately for the defending champs, the game was dominated by the guys in the colored home unis, and two goals from Troy Brouwer and Braden Holtby tied-for-league-leading 6th shutout was enough for Washington to secure two big points.

Tuesday night's Plus/Minus:

Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Look no further than the top line trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marcus Johansson. Despite having played very little together (coming in to this game, MarJo had seen fewer than 16 minutes up top with Ovi at 5v5), these guys dominated. Yeah, the tic-tac-toe goal to put the game out of reach was nice. But they also dominated beneath the surface, garnering nearly 70% of on-ice shot attempts before the game went out of reach.
  • Minus: Tonight, there is no minus.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

  • In a departure from a perverted three-way marriage that should never have existed, the puck dropped with the skilled Marcus Johansson on the right wing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. If you thought things might look up for the top line, the way this trio was buzzing around the ice on their first few shifts might've indicated your prescience. These guys cemented the game with a beautiful third-period goal (the aesthetics matching the reputation attached to players of their skill level), and they absolutely took it to one of the best possession teams in the league. Look for these musketeers to stay together awhile.
  • Speaking of the first line, there's not an awful lot to write about Jay Beagle tonight (and Mubeeb already wrote plenty yesterday), and that's precisely the way it should be. Show up to the rink, do your job (which Beagle did a good job of tonight, winning the possession battle, the faceoff battle, and not taking any penalties while killing them all off), and go home to a nice bowl of spaghetti. For the love of all things, let the across-the-board solid play of tonight's lines spell the end of Beagle's stint atop the depth chart.
  • As we move through the month leading up to the NHL's trade deadline, Mike Green is a name oft-carried on the winds of rumor. If he goes we'll hate to see it, and if he stays, we'll relish it, but in the meantime we'll continue windmill-fist-pumping every time his name is attached to a goal— as it was as the primary assist on Troy Brouwer's second period power play goal. If not for a bit of acrobatic wizardry on the part of Jonathan Quick in the first period, it wouldn't been Mike Green's second point on the night.
  • Braden Holtby didn't face his first shot until the first period was nearly halfway through, and didn't face any real great chances until stoning Marian Gaborik on a semi-breakaway at the midway point of the second period. The Caps stayed strong in front of him, and Holtby earned his league-leading 6th shutout on the season, and extended his no-goals-in-regulation streak to just under 200 minutes. Pretty unreal from Holts.
  • It was Troy Brouwer's 500th game in the NHL and, with a little help from linemate Evgeni Kuznetsov, he celebrated by tickling the twine for his 14th marker on the season— an even strenghter!. Our peerless managing editor pointed out earlier today that Brouwer, in the last six games during situations in which the score was within one goal, had only generated one shot attempt. Hey, at least he makes 'em count.
  • Coming in to tonight's game, the Caps had more wins than any other squad in the league when scoring first, and as we told you earlier today, the worst team in the league when failing to do so. Nice to see them continue one of those trends tonight. Now, about setting the other one right...
  • Welcome back to the lineup, Andre Burakovsky (and on the left-wing besides). An early game defensive-zone dangle (thankfully without consequence) was a dubious omen, but Bura's strong forecheck forced Alec Martinez to make the poor clearing attempt that ended up in the back of the net to open the scoring. Bura's (and the rest of his line's) possession numbers were something of an ugly mark on an otherwise delightful ledger, as they saw only about 30% of even strength shot attempts go in their favor.
  • Coming into this one, the Caps had lost 7 of 9 games against the Pacific. Granted, winning these games doesn't have the big-time post-season implications as tilts against some more familiar foes, but sock me sideways if man-handling the defending champs doesn't put a smile on your face.
  • Tonight's lines were a topic of conversation throughout the day. Johansson up top. Burakovsky back in the lineup and on the second line. The top 9 forwards looked as optimal as ever, and they delivered, with each line scoring a goal at even strength. What more can you ask for, really?
  • Fun to note that with his 409th career assist on Troy Brouwer's 2nd tally, Nicklas Backstrom creeped within 5 of passing Alex Ovechkin for 2nd on the all-time franchise assist ledger...until Alex Ovechkin picked up the secondary assist on Nicklas Backstrom's third period goal.
  • Game highlights: