Bear scores first goal as Capitals shut out Ducks
WASHINGTON (AP) — It had been so long since Ethan Bear scored a goal that he forgot how it felt. That feeling came rushing back Tuesday night.
Bear scored his first NHL goal in almost exactly a year, Darcy Kuemper stopped all 24 shots he faced and the Washington Capitals beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“All the wins are so important right now," Kuemper said. "We’ve just got to keep rolling till the All-Star break here because the standings are so tight.”
Bear's goal with 37.8 seconds left in the first period came in his ninth game with the Capitals after signing with them in December. The defenseman, who spent the summer and fall rehabbing from shoulder surgery, last scored Jan. 15, 2023.
“It’s definitely nice to get that out of the way,” Bear said. "Now I can just have fun and not think about it.”
Kuemper's shutout is his first this season and 31st of his 12-year career. He didn't have a lot of action early, as the Ducks had just three shots in a sleepy first that featured a spirited fight between a couple of 6-foot-5 combatants: Anaheim's Ross Johnston and Washington's Joel Edmundson.
The game slogged on from there until Tom Wilson, wearing a full face shield to protect his broken nose, sealed Washington's third win in five games with an empty-net goal with 57.6 seconds remaining.
“It took the full 60 (minutes) to get it done, but Tom got the big empty-netter there and we could kind of take a deep breath,” Kuemper said.
The Capitals blocked 21 Ducks shots over the course of the game, making life easier on Kuemper, who bounced back from a rough stretch that included him going 2-4 with a 4.26 goals-against average and .870 save percentage.
“He was fantastic,” coach Spencer Carbery said. “There were situations where he needed to be very strong. I thought he was excellent tonight and exactly what we needed.”
Carbery's team is staying afloat despite being without captain Alex Ovechkin, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury.
“Every time you miss the big piece like Alex, a lot of guys have to step up," center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "Maybe not the most exciting game tonight, but we got the job done. That’s what’s most important for us.”
John Gibson made 26 saves in net for the young, rebuilding Ducks, who have lost eight of 10. Gibson got the start on back-to-back days after playing Monday in an overtime win at Florida.
“We were off early — you could tell," coach Greg Cronin said. “I thought we started slowed. We stayed, I thought, pretty sound defensively, didn’t give them too much, even though we weren’t really sharp with our passing and our execution.”
Anaheim’s Radko Gudas missed the game with injury, 30 hours after his return to Florida. Gudas helped the Panthers reach the Stanley Cup Final last season before signing with the Ducks as a free agent.
Ducks: Visit the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night in the last of six games on the road.
Capitals: Host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in the first half of a home-and-home series.
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