Oates: 'I'm not disappointed in the game'
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals [20-14-5] put Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo behind them and turn their attention to tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators [16-18-7] at 7:30 p.m. on CSN:
Where they stand: Despite their shootout loss in Buffalo, the Caps have earned at least a point in four of their last five games [2-1-2] and in 11 of their last 14 games [8-3-3]. They remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division, five points ahead of the Flyers, Rangers and Devils and 14 behind the first-place Penguins. Their 45 points are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with the Detroit Red Wings, behind only Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa and Montreal.
Shootout shutout: The Caps fell to 8-3 in shootouts this season, as Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller stopped Eric Fehr, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mikhail Grabovski, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green in succession. Miller’s stop on Fehr ended Fehr’s streak of success in shootouts. He had scored on all five of his previous attempts this season. Ovechkin dropped to 2-for-11 on the season and is now 25-for-79 in his shootout career. Grabovski faked slapshot and tried a spinarama on Miller, but shot wide right on his backhand. Green is now 0-for-1 this season and 0-for-8 in his career.
[WATCH: Caps fall to Sabres in shootout]
Grubi-doo: Caps rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer [16 saves] played well in Buffalo but was overshadowed by Miller’s 49-save effort. Grubauer is now 5-1-2 with a 2.02 GAA and .937 save percentage in nine appearances this season. “It’s probably one of the tougher games for me; you’ve got to stay focused,” Grubauer said. “Those are mentally probably the worst games but you have to find a way.”
Who’s next? Caps coach Adam Oates said his plan was to give Braden Holtby his first start since Dec. 21 tonight in Ottawa. Grubauer made five saves in the shootout before Sabres captain Steve Ott beat him high over his right shoulder. “The benefit of shooting later in the shootout is I got to see a lot of the guys, and [Grubauer] was constantly taking a lot of low net away from the guys that shot,” Ott said. “He seemed like he was back in his net, so deking him, which is what I usually like to do, wasn't there.”
Shot ticker: The Caps attempted 78 shots on Sunday, 50 of them finding the net, 15 of them missing the net and 13 of them blocked before they got to the net. “Imagine if [Miller] gave up rebounds, they would’ve had over 100 shots,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. Miller saw most of those shots. “
Ovi watch: Ovechkin was held without a goal for the third straight game, his longest scoring drought of the season. But it wasn’t from a lack of trying. Ovi recorded a season-high 12 shots. Two others missed the net. “The only thing we could have done better was traffic in front of the net and disturb him a little more,” Backstrom said. “That’s something we have to do next game.”
Orlov rocked: Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov appeared to recover nicely from a big hit he took from Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis late in the third period. Orlov had the puck along the defensive left wing boards when Ennis bowled him over with 5:08 remaining in regulation. Orlov returned to action and took three shifts in overtime. He missed much of the second half of last season with a concussion.
Look ahead: The Caps arrived in Ottawa late Sunday night and are scheduled for a light morning skate. It will be interesting to see if Brooks Laich, who has missed 13 of the last 14 games with right groin issues, will return to the lineup or take the extra time off before the Caps return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.