SAN JOSE (AP) — Philipp Grubauer made 24 saves for his fifth career shutout and Nicklas Backstrom scored late in the second period to help the Washington Capitals salvage the final game of their California swing with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Washington was outscored 7-1 in losses to Anaheim and Los Angeles to open the trip before a narrow win in San Jose moved the Capitals one point ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the Metropolitan Division, pending the Penguins’ game in Toronto.
Alex Ovechkin, two goals short of 600 for Washington, was held scoreless for the third straight game. Marc-Edouard Vlasic thwarted one chance for Ovechkin to get goal No. 599 with a strong back check and goalie Martin Jones robbed Ovechkin on a partial breakaway midway through the third period to keep San Jose’s deficit at 1-0.
Lars Eller’s empty-net goal sealed the win for the Capitals.
The Sharks were unable to get anything past Grubauer and fell to 3-2 on their six-game homestand. San Jose failed on two power-play chances, falling to 1 for 32 with the man advantage over the past 14 games.
Jones made 24 saves for the Sharks but couldn’t stop Backstrom’s one-timer late in the second period after Washington appeared to enter the zone offside.
Brett Connolly found Backstrom alone in the faceoff circle and he beat Jones high to the glove side for his 17th goal of the season. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t challenge for offside, and the goal stood.
The Sharks controlled play for much of the first period but were unable to turn that into goals as Timo Meier hit the post during a power play on San Jose’s best opportunity. Tomas Hertl also hit the post on the power play in the second period as San Jose failed to take advantage of two penalties by Tom Wilson.
The Capitals took over in the second, outshooting the Sharks 12-3. That heavy pressure finally paid off late in the period with Backstrom’s goal.
NOTES: The Capitals had not won in regulation at San Jose since their first trip to the Shark Tank on Oct. 30, 1993, when they won 4-2. Washington had 13 losses, one tie, one overtime win and one shootout win since then.
Sharks: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.
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