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Grubauer, Capitals get win against Ducks

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals were planning to recall goaltender Philipp Grubauer from the American Hockey League for some time, but needed to find an opportune time in their schedule to do so.

The Capitals circled their game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, the second of a back-to-back and one against a Western Conference opponent, as the optimal setting.

Grubauer made 23 saves in his first NHL start of the season, a 3-2 shootout victory at Verizon Center.

"He played quite well," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "He's had a lot of games, he's played very well [in the AHL], and that's why we wanted to see him. It was important organizationally. If you really look at our schedule, we sort of targeted a date, and this is really the last back-to-back where it made sense travel-wise before the [March 2] trade deadline really. … He did very well, did very well against a good team."

Jason Chimera and John Carlson scored for Washington (28-15-10), which has won three straight after losing six of seven. Evgeny Kuznetsov (two assists) and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the shootout.

"We've had a tough little stretch here with great teams, and it doesn't seem like we are going to play any other teams that aren't really in the [Stanley Cup Playoff] hunt or at the top," Carlson said. "We'd like to put ourselves there, and we have got to have our play determine that for us."

Grubauer, who made 14 starts for Washington last season, will return to the Hershey Bears on Saturday.

"It was a pretty good experience," the 23-year-old said. "I was really, really happy I got a chance to play against the No. 1 team in the League right now. It was a really good challenge for us today."

Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry scored for Anaheim (34-12-7), which played without captain Ryan Getzlaf (lower body) for the second straight game. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 32 saves.

"I thought our first period was very good," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think we held them to one scoring chance. It was very little. [We] outshot them 10-6, but once they started to gain momentum, I think we were on our heels most of the game until they got the lead and then we started to play to win rather than play not to lose. It's a learning experience, and if you can get a point out of a learning experience, then that's great."

With Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin in the penalty box for interfering with Sami Vatanen, the Ducks took a 1-0 lead 18:15 into the first period. Sustained pressure from Anaheim's power play had Washington reeling when Jakob Silfverberg retrieved the puck for Kesler after Matt Niskanen blocked Kesler's first shot. Kesler's next shot beat Grubauer from above the left circle for his 15th goal of the season.

As Anaheim attempted to leave its zone early in the second period, Troy Brouwer swiped the puck from Ben Lovejoy as he lay on the ice, keeping the play onside and facilitating a 2-on-0 with Kuznetsov and Chimera.

Chimera finished with a goal between Bryzgalov's legs at 4:15, his first since Jan. 14.

"Just a little bit of desperation from me. I didn't want to backcheck," Brouwer said jokingly.

The Capitals continued to test Bryzgalov with point-blank scoring chances, none closer than Brouwer's at 15:24. Johansson led Brouwer with a pass that clipped the crossbar after Bryzgalov attempted to poke the puck.

"He played well," Kesler said of Bryzgalov. "He made key saves, that's why we got him. He played very well for us tonight. Like I said, he deserved better. We came back like we always do, and we're just going to get the next one."

Carlson scored at 10:44 of the third period, redeeming himself after sailing a wide-open slap shot over the net by beating Bryzgalov from the right circle 7 seconds later.

"I couldn't really settle it down," Carlson said. "Just tried to get it on net, but missed. I was lucky [Kuznetsov] made a nice pass and lucky to finally get one in. It feels pretty good."

Perry tied the game 2-2 at 13:45, banking the puck off Grubauer's left skate.

In the shootout, Grubauer stopped Perry and Kesler in the second and third rounds.

"At least the guys who have been here kind of know [Grubauer]," Carlson said. "He's a battler, a competitor, plays good all the time when given the opportunity. Looked real poised back there. I think for his first game, I thought he played the puck exceptionally, which is usually one of those things that, his first game back up in a while, you kind of don't want to make a mistake, and he did a great job."

Washington played without defenseman Mike Green, who was a late scratch with a lower-body injury. Trotz said he doesn't expect Green to miss Washington's game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, but he will be a game-time decision.

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