Blues fail to pick up critical points in 4-2 regulation loss to Caps
ST. LOUIS — Braden Holtby made a strong case for more playing time.
Holtby made 34 saves and Nicklas Backstrom started a three-goal second period as the surging Capitals beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 Monday night.
Alex Ovechkin got his league-leading 46th goal, and Alex Chiasson and Andre Burakovsky also scored to help the Capitals get their seventh win in eight games, and 11th in the last 13.
Holtby, who has been sharing the goaltending duties with Philipp Grubauer the past six weeks, won for the fourth time in his last five starts and improved to 7-0-0 in seven career starts against St. Louis.
Grubauer made 36 stops in a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh on Sunday that clinched the Capitals’ third straight Metropolitan Division title. Holby turned in a similarly strong effort 24 hours later.
“Both goalies are playing really well,” said coach Barry Trotz, who has not named a starter for the playoffs that begin next week. “They’re pushing each other. They’ve responded every night.”
Holtby is not worried about the future. He simply focuses on the task at hand each night.
“I’ve always been a big believer in leaving those decisions to other people and focus on your job and your job only,” Holtby said. “And that’s stopping pucks and helping this team win.”
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Holtby improved to 33-16-4 on the season, while Grubauer is 15-9-3
Chiasson feels his team is in a no-lose situation entering postseason play with two solid goalies.
“Those two have been the backbone of this team all year,” Chiasson said. “Whenever one was not playing as well as he wanted, the other was picking up the charge.”
Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who lost their second straight and remained one point behind Colorado for the second and final wild card in the Western Conference. The Avalanche lost 3-1 at Los Angeles later.
“There’s not a single part of me that doesn’t believe that we’re going to get there,” St. Louis coach Mike Yeo said.
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko realizes his team has its back to the wall.
“We know we’re basically in a win-out situation,” Parayko said. “We also know what we’ve got to do to win. We’ve done it the last couple of weeks.”
Jake Allen finished with 30 saves.
Backstrom, Chiasson and Burakovsky scored in the first 7:54 of the second period to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead.
Backstrom tied it 1-1 by firing a shot past goalie Jake Allen from close range just 51 seconds into the period, giving him 20 goals in three straight seasons.
“We came off a huge win Sunday and got a lot of confidence with that,” Backstrom said. “And we just kept going.”
Chiasson put Washington ahead with his ninth at 2:39, and Burakovsky gave the Capitals a two-goal lead with his 11th a little more than five minutes later.
“Obviously we’re not taking our foot off the gas,” Burakovsky said. “We’re battling just as hard for every game and every point.”
Berglund pulled St. Louis within one with 8 1/2 minutes left in the second, but Ovechkin scored into an empty net with 1:31 left in the third.
NOTES: Ovechkin played in his 1,001st NHL game. … The Capitals have won six of their last nine games in back-to-back situations. … St. Louis RW Scottie Upshall is out the rest of the season with a lacerated kidney. … G Allen has started the Blues’ last 13 games. … Washington RW T.J. Oshie was held out of the contest as a precautionary measure. He is nursing a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Capitals: Close the regular season with back-to-back home games against Nashville on Thursday and New Jersey on Saturday.
Blues: Host Chicago on Wednesday before closing with two road games.