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Holtby says Caps 'sick of the way we've played'

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Holtby says Caps 'sick of the way we've played'

With five wins separating him from one of hockey’s most treasured goaltending records, Braden Holtby readily admits he is more concerned about the state of the Capitals than being mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur.

Following the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night Holtby described a locker room determined to pull itself out of a funk that has hit “bottom.”

Mind you, this was on a night the Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with its 52nd win and 108th and 109th points.

“I think we’re all kind of sick of the way we’ve played at times over the past couple months, and you can tell it’s starting to turn,” Holtby said. “Everyone’s realizing you have to hit that bottom and tonight you could kind of tell this is where we turn it around now.”

Despite their gaudy record and the fact they are 14-0-1 following regulation losses this season, the Caps have won in regulation just twice in their last nine games. The Caps are 5-3-1 in that stretch, but two of those wins came in overtime and one came in a shootout.

Maybe that’s why no one was spraying champagne around the visiting  locker room Tuesday night after the Caps clinched home ice for the first three rounds of the playoffs. Following the game there seemed  to be a prevailing feeling that if the Caps continue the way they’ve been playing there may be not be able to experience a second or third round of post-season hockey.

“That (clinching the Metro Division) obviously was one of our goals at the start of the year,” Holtby said. “It’s nice to have done , but that’s the last thing on our mind right now. We’re working at getting better.”

RELATED: Trotz says Caps' big lead a blessing and a curse

The Capitals tackled one of their biggest issues lately by sprinting out to a 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but as Ovechkin noted, they “stopped playing” after that and allowed the Senators back into the game by taking undisciplined penalties – one each by Daniel Winnik, Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov – and turning pucks over in all three zones.

“The second period was a turnover festival,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “Both teams were turning the puck over left and right.”

The Caps managed just four shots in that second period, with Holtby and the Caps’ penalty killers keeping them in the game. The Senators rallied with a goal in the second period and another in the third before T.J. Oshie killed the rally with an empty netter.

“That (first period) is what won us the game, really, because we weren’t the better team tonight,” Holtby said. “That was evident. Getting goals early was kind of the opposite of what we’ve been doing lately. We tailed off the rest of the game.”

Asked what needed to be better in the final 40 minutes, Holtby didn’t leave out much.

“Decision making, battles, everything,” he said. “You get a lead like that, you want to make them work for everything, below their goal especially. Against a team like Ottawa you can’t turn pucks over with them. That’s how they get their offense. We recognize that here as a group. That’s a sign of maturity and we’ll fix it.”

On the bright side, Holtby and the Caps kept their streak of not losing back-to-back games in regulation alive. Holtby, who was pulled on Sunday after allowing five goals on 19 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Penguins, is a perfect 13-0-0 in games following losses this season, allowing two or fewer goals in every one.

“Every time is a different animal,” he said. “There’s always something you can do better. Today I just wanted to get back to work and work as hard as I could out there; finish every puck.  That was my goal coming in, not overthinking things and just working.”

With 10 games remaining in the regular season  and three more sets of back-to-back games, Holtby figures to get seven more cracks at getting the four victories needed to tie Brodeur’s NHL record of 48 wins. Any more would make him the winningest single-season goaltender in NHL history.

But that is the last thing on Holtby’s mind these days.

“We’re not in a playoff push, but with 10 games left it’s a blessing in disguise that we can get ramped up because we have something to play for and we have to make sure we’re getting our top level going into the playoffs,” he said. “It’s a luxury we have 10 games to do it and it’s our job to use them effectively. That’s our goal as a collective group.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps Justin Williams shows off a few moves during a timeout

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE