Braden Holtby has put together an incredible season for the Washington Capitals, but for now it has yet to become an historic one. With the 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, Holtby remains one win shy of tying Martin Brodeur's record of 48 wins in a single season.
Just two nights after taking the blame for he team's loss against the New York Islanders, Holtby struck a very different tone when reacting to Thursday's loss.
"The work ethic wasn't there, the execution, nothing was," Holtby said. "I don't even know how we were brought back to overtime."
In a pattern that has become all too familiar in recent weeks, the Caps fell in an early hole, only this time they were not able to climb out of it.
An odd-man rush allowed Matt Cullen to give Pittsburgh the lead just 44 seconds into the game. Two more Penguins tallies left the Caps down 3-0 in the second period before the team finally began to fight back.
Holtby, however, was not satisfied with the effort.
"It was a big challenge tonight going against the hottest team in the league and hopefully we realize that we're a lot better team than that," Holtby said. "We need to work. Things don't come easy in this league."
The loss likely ends Holtby's chance of surpassing Brodeur's record. With two games remaining—a back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday—the plan originally was for Holtby to start one and Philipp Grubauer to start the other. When asked if that plan would change now that Holtby remains at 47 wins, head coach Barry Trotz said, "Absolutely not. They'll split them."
For Holtby to pass Brodeur, he would have to win his start, also replace Grubauer in the second game and lead the Caps to the win, a very unlikely scenario.
When Holtby won win No. 47 on April 1, the record seemed all but his. The Caps had five games remaining on the schedule and was expected to start three of them. Now he will need to win his final start just to tie Brodeur. Should he lose and finish the season with 47 wins, it would be an unfortunate end for both him and the team considering how tantalizingly close he came to breaking the record.
"We've lost two games in overtime and he could have had the record," Trotz said. "And we had two cracks at it and we didn't get it for him."