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Capitals defeat Hurricanes for sixth win in row

by Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Washington Capitals played on less than a full tank but extended their winning streak to six games with determination and personal sacrifice.

The Carolina Hurricanes skated 6-on-4 for the final 91 seconds, but the Capitals blocked four shots in the final 19 seconds to preserve a 2-1 win at PNC Arena on Monday.

Forwards T.J. Oshie and Jay Beagle each blocked one in the final sequence, and defenseman Matt Niskanen blocked two, preserving a win for backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who made 31 saves.

"It wasn't pretty tonight for sure, but I think we did a lot of things necessary to win this kind of game," Niskanen said. "They were a little fresher than us."

Coming off a 7-3 win at the New York Rangers on Sunday, the Capitals (25-6-2) had to withstand a few waves of offense from the Hurricanes.

Washington went up 1-0 on Michael Latta's goal at 15:52 of the first period. Latta stickhandled through the neutral zone before leaving the puck for Andre Burakovsky at the blue line. Cam Ward handled Burakovsky's wrist shot from the left circle, but Latta scored on the rebound at the top of the crease for his third goal of the season.

The Hurricanes (13-16-5) had the better of play early in the period. Grubauer had to be sharp on several chances, but his best came on consecutive pad saves against Jordan Staal and Andrej Nestrasil.

"Grubauer was really sharp," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "He had a lot of quick plays around the net. There was lots of traffic and he was real active. He allowed us to get our feet under us a little bit."

The Capitals pushed the lead to 2-0 on a redirect by Chimera at 12:49 of the second period. Jay Beagle won his ninth faceoff in nine attempts, setting up John Carlson from the left point. Chimera went to the net, where he battled for position with Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk.

"I felt it hit my skate," said Chimera, who scored his ninth of the season. "It's one of those ones where you don't need a stick sometimes. You just get in front of the net."

The Hurricanes kept testing Grubauer with low, hard shots. Late in the second, Faulk took a shot to the far post that the Washington goaltender sprawled to save with his right pad.

"It's all about positioning on the low shots," Grubauer said. "I would say a couple of them I couldn't even see because they used our defense as a screen just to get a quick shot. They did a good job of screening me."

Carolina kept Grubauer from his first NHL shutout early in the third period with a beautiful individual play by Kris Versteeg. After John-Michael Liles shot wide, Versteeg collected the puck at the left post on his backhand before slipping it between his skates and flipping the puck into the net on his forehand at 2:18.

Washington was called for too many men on the ice with 1:31 remaining. With Ward already off for an extra attacker, the Capitals penalty killers went to work.

"I thought we did a good job of not letting them get set up," said Niskanen, who had seven of Washington's 26 blocked shots. "We were able to get a couple clears early. That really relieves some pressure. They didn't have much time to set up on the power play. Then [we had] guys being desperate to keep the puck out of the net at the end."

That included a block off Oshie's chest, one that hit a sliding Niskanen in the chest, and another that Beagle dove to keep away from the net, all on shots by Faulk.

"It can't be the power play every game and the top six (forwards)," said Beagle, who won his first 13 faceoffs and 14 of 18 for the game. "It's nice when we're successful. You've got to have the third and fourth line chipping in."

After four games in early December when the Hurricanes scored 20 goals, the Carolina offense has dried up a bit. Versteeg's was the only even-strength goal in the past three games.

"We just needed to find a way to score," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "I thought we had the puck lots. We had some chances. I thought we were right there for sure."

Versteeg said, "I thought we did a good job containing their forwards tonight, but when we only get one goal, it's hard to win sometimes. We've got to find a way, even myself, to be more productive at times."

The Capitals head into the Christmas break 13-1-1 in their past 15 games.

"[Nicklas] Backstrom, [Alex] Ovechkin, guys like that have only one thing on their mind now and that's winning a Stanley Cup," Chimera said. "I know it sounds cheesy, but it's such a close bunch of guys. Everyone here gets along, and it goes a long way for guys when you go to bat for each other."

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