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Holtby rewards Trotz's faith in him

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Holtby rewards Trotz's faith in him

NEW YORK – The Capitals were trailing the Rangers 3-1 and their defense was looking like a revolving door at Saks Fifth Avenue through the first period of Sunday night’s game at Madison Square Garden.

That left coach Barry Trotz with a decision to make. Should he pull goaltender Braden Holtby, who had allowed three goals on 15 first-period shots? Or should he leave him in for the start of the second period?

“I thought Holts had a little bit of a shaky first,” Trotz said after watching Holtby and his teammates pull it together for s rousing 7-3 come-from-behind win. “I said to him, ‘You were real close to being yanked.’ 

“But what I loved about it is that I let him stay in there. Great goalies find a way to get their game back together and he did. I thought he was really solid after the first. 

“The leash was going to be a little shorter in the second period, but he just pulled it together and I thought he was real strong.”

RELATED: Caps ride six unanswered goals to big win in New York

Holtby stopped the final 21 shots he faced and received goals from six different forwards, including two by Justin Williams, to earn his league-leading 21st win of the season. Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson also score for the Capitals, who won for the fifth straight time and now tied with the Dallas Stars atop the NHL standings with 50 points.

“It’s a good two-way street,” Williams said. “He bails us out when we have a turnover or when we’re not playing our game. He can throw up 40 saves and steal the game for us. On the other end of the spectrum he can look at us and say, ‘Boys, I’m not my greatest, but I know we can get a win.’ Faith runs both ways.”

In his previous start on Friday night, Holtby was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots and the Capitals rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3. The start of Sunday’s game looked eerily similar and was reminiscent of the last time the Caps visited the Garden on Nov. 3, when Holtby allowed five goals on 22 shots in a 5-2 loss.

“The third goal that went in is one that can’t go in, especially at that time of the game,” Holtby said, referring to Chris Kreider’s shot that beat him inside the far post on a play in which he overcommitted to his right. “Guys did a phenomenal job of bearing down and scoring some big goals. The past two games we’ve kind of been feeling it a bit in the offensive zone, which is good. But I definitely owe them one in the future.”

Holtby led the Caps onto the ice in the second period and they began chipping away at the Rangers, who have suddenly gone 3-9-2 after starting the season 16-3-2.

Kuznetsov and Oshie scored just 1:36 apart to tie the score and after Johansson drew a tripping penalty on Oscar Lindberg, Ovechkin made the Rangers pay when he rifled a snap shot off the cartching arm of Henrik Lundqvist and into the net for this 17th goal of the season and seventh on the power play.

“We knew we could do it if we stay on them,” said Ovechkin, who is now five goals off the pace being set by Dallas’ Jamie Benn (22). “We were able to make it physical and stay on them. It created opportunities for us to score goals on the power play.”

MORE HOCKEY: Crosby day-to-day with lower-body injury

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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