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Braden Holtby got roughed up by Nikita Kucherov and the Atlantic All-Stars


Braden Holtby got roughed up by Nikita Kucherov and the Atlantic All-Stars

TAMPA—Braden Holtby’s All-Star Game stats were, well, pretty ugly. But the Capitals’ netminder managed to take it all in stride Sunday—and he even poked a little fun at himself.

“It didn’t quite go as well as last year,” Holtby cracked at Amalie Arena, where his Metropolitan squad was eliminated in the semis, 7-4, by the Atlantic All-Stars. “That happens. You just kinda go in there with an open mind and hope you guess right sometimes. They made some pretty good plays.”

Holtby then joked, “No one came here to watch saves, anyway. The first game there were too many saves, so I let a few in.”

Holtby’s stat line: five goals on 10 shots.


The defending champions were clinging to a 3-2 lead when Henrik Lundqvist handed over the net to Holtby, who surrendered five of the game’s next six goals, including one on an intentional whiff by Nikita Kucherov that’ll have people talking for a while.

“He’s got a lot of skill, and he surprised me,” said Holtby, who was making his third straight All-Star Game appearance. “It’s a great move. He’s one of those players who thinks like a goalie. It’s scary when guys think that way.”

Barry Trotz, the Metropolitan coach, didn’t have a problem with Holtby’s performance.

“Braden couldn’t do anything about any of the goals,” Trotz said. On the highlight reel goal, Trotz added, “That was pretty special. Kucherov is one of the greatest goal scorers.”


Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, was sympathetic to Holtby's plight, saying his goalie got put in a tough spot. Not only was he facing a loaded Atlantic lineup, Ovi said, he also had to go into the game cold due to the format.

“One thing for goalies, I think they have to be a little bit more warmer,” Ovechkin said. “You sit on the bench. You sit in the locker room. You don’t get any shots. Then you go out there [against] a full speeded guy like Kucherov or [Steven] Stamkos or [Erik] Karlsson and they come to you, it’s pretty hard. He was good.”

Holtby said he let Henrik Lundqvist decide if he wanted to play in the first half or the second of the game. But Holtby also wasn’t making any excuses after the game for the goals he allowed.

“I thought Hank deserved the right to choose,” Holtby said of deferring to the Rangers’ netminder. “He’s one of the great players in the game right now and in his career. You get a little bit of warmup, you see a couple of shots. But in the end you’re just trying to survive and hopefully the puck hits you in the right places.”

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.