- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2017

For a 1 p.m. start against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Washington Capitals did not look ready.

The league’s hottest team coming into the contest, the Capitals opened with just 10 shot attempts and in the first went into the final period with a pedestrian-looking 1-0 lead.

But an offensive explosion in the third — four goals in just seven minutes — combined with a defensive shutout gem from goaltender Philipp Grubauer gave the Capitals a 5-0 win, extending Washington’s winning streak to nine.

Grubauer stopped all 24 shots he faced, including nine on the Capitals‘ penalty kill. The 25-year-old goaltender faced down a flurry of 13 shots in the opening frame.

“Obviously it helps seeing the puck there in the first couple of seconds and get into the game because of it,” Grubauer said. “It’s been a while since I’ve played. Guys kept (the shots) to the outside. I don’t think we gave up that many scoring chances after the first.”

Washington’s 1-0 lead came courtesy of an Andre Burakovsky goal. Burakovsky gathered the puck after Flyers’ defenseman Michael Del Zotto gave it away in his defensive zone. The puck found Burakovsky’s stick and he flicked it in the moment he gathered it.

The offensive fireworks in the final period began with a Justin Williams goal. Forward Marcus Johansson took the puck behind the net and passed to Williams on his strong side before Williams tucked it in. Defenseman Matt Niskanen added another goal less than two minutes later, and both Niskanen and Williams added another goal apiece before the period, and the game, came to an end.

The win put the Capitals, with the NHL’s longest active winning streak, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

“Everybody seems to be doing their job at a high level right now,” Williams said. “That’s why we’re being successful. If there’s a breakdown, someone is there to help you out. And if there’s a total breakdown, our goaltenders are there to shut the door.”

Grubauer’s shutout is the second of his season. In his nine starts this season, Washington is 7-1-1. Shutouts have become a theme for Capitals goaltenders of late. In four of the Capitals‘ last six games, they have blanked the opposition. Sunday marked the first time in the history of the franchise the Captials have recorded four shutouts in a six game span.

The Capitals, out of town this week on a three-game road trip. face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

Capitals Notes:

Defenseman John Carlson left the game after the first period with a lower body injury and did not return. Carlson was not available to the media following the game, but coach Barry Trotz said the injury does not seem significant. Trotz said Washington will not need to recall a defenseman from the Hershey Bears for their upcoming road trip.

“He’s coming with us,” Trotz said. “We just need to have the trainers work some magic.”

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