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Kuznetsov thanks Oshie for fighting Schenn


Kuznetsov thanks Oshie for fighting Schenn

Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov thumped his chest in appreciation on Saturday when asked how it felt to see teammate T.J. Oshie drop the gloves with Flyers center Brayden Schenn just 10 seconds into Game 5 on Friday night.

“I had no idea about that before the game,” Kuznetsov said. “When you see that you feel unbelievable that somebody is behind you. I tell him lots of good words. I really appreciate it.”

Oshie’s rationale for getting into his first fight as a Capital since a preseason scuffle with Boston’s Adam McQuaid was simple. No one in the Caps locker room was happy with Schenn’s two-handed chop to the back of Kuznetsov’s right knee in the second period of Game 4 in Philadelphia.     

“We were really unhappy,” Oshie said. “…So, it had to be done.”

Why, Oshie was asked, was he the one to do the dirty work?

 “Why not?” Oshie replied. “First one out there.”

“Osh is an all-in guy,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I love it when your top players step up and say, ‘We’re in.’ And he did. There’s a lot of honor in that, when a guy steps up for someone else.”

While Trotz was happy to see Oshie stick up for Kuznetsov, he’d also like to see Kuznetsov start making a difference in this series from an offensive perspective.

Through five games against the Flyers, Kuznetsov has one power-play goal on a total of 20 shots. But his struggles date long before the playoffs. Kuznetsov, who led the Capitals with 77 points in 82 games,  went the final 20 games of the regular season without a goal.

“I had 78 shots from March 8 to score one goal,” he said, accurately counting every shot in his past 21 games. “I usually shoot one per game, so that’s pretty tough. We have to put more pucks at the net. We just have to find some dirty goals.”

And they’ll need to do it soon. Through five playoff games the Caps’ second line of Kuznetsov (20 shots), Justin Williams (11 shots) and Andre Burakovsky (5 shots) have combined for 36 shots but zero even-strength goals.

“Ovi was dominant last night,” Trotz said. “We need Kuzy’s line to get going a little bit.”

In Game 5 on Friday night, Kuznetsov, Williams and Burakovsky combined for five shots on Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth, who stopped a team record 44 shots in a 2-0 win.

“Listen, he played a great game,” Williams said. “Sometimes you tip your cap and say great game. But we know in the long run if we play the way we did last night for the most part, something right is going to go in our direction and we can’t get frustrated if it doesn’t.”

RELATED: Caps seem more excited than nervous

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders


Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.


Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

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"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."


Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

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2018 Olympic Hockey Results: Czech Republic eliminate U.S. men in shootout winner

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Kouka scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round and was outshot 29-20.

Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.

Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn't beat Francouz.