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Sabres end Holtby's streak with 4-1 rout


Sabres end Holtby's streak with 4-1 rout

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the Sabres Saturday night in Buffalo:

How it happened: Goaltender Braden Holtby was pulled after allowing three goals on 16 shots and lost in regulation for the first time since Nov. 10, ending a personal streak of 20-0-2. The Capitals’ special teams failed them. The power play went 0-for-4 while allowing a shorthanded goal, and the penalty killers allowed one goal on five Buffalo power-plays.

What it means: The Caps’ five-game win streak was halted.

Tough night for Orly: Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov finished a minus-2. On the Sabres’ first goal, he was just out of the reach of  Philip Varone, who beat him to a Rasmus Ristolainen rebound for his first goal of the season 10:30 into the game. Five minutes, 30 seconds later, with the Caps on the power play, Orlov couldn’t handle a Jason Chimera pass back to the right point and chased Tim Schaller all the way down the ice as Schaller made his first goal of the season a shortie.

Holtby yanking: For just the second time this season, Holtby was pulled from a game after allowing three goals before the midway point. Following a Marcus Johansson giveaway at center ice, Sabres forward Evander Kane snapped a shot that went off the catching arm of Holtby and behind him for a 3-0 Buffalo lead.

Makeup play: After the Sabres increased their lead to 4-0 on a power-play goal against Philipp Grubauer late in the second period, Johansson breathed life into the Caps when he scored his 11th goal of the season 2:54 into the third period. Tom Wilson created the play with a hard forecheck against Buffalo defenseman Jake McCabe, who coughed the puck up to Chimera, who whipped a pass to Johansson alone in the slot.

Lineup shuffle: Center Mike Richards made his Capitals debut, centering a fourth line with Zach Sill and Michael Latta. That left Brooks Laich as a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Stan Galiev was also a healthy scratch. Through 43 games Laich had one goal on 48 shots, four assists and was a minus-6.

Richie effect: In his first game with the Caps and his first NHL game since April 9, Mike Richards saw 13:01 of ice time, including 3:16 on the penalty kill and 7 seconds on the power play. Richards had one shot on goal, had another blocked, another miss the net and he was credited with one hit. He was not on the ice for a goal for or against.

Willie effect: Tom Wilson (plus-1) was the only plus player for the Caps. He also led the Caps with six hits and went toe-to-toe in a good fight with Nick Foligno, who tossed Wilson to the ice at the end of the bout and raised his arms in triumph.  

Minus: Along with Dmitry Orlov, Justin Williams, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov were also a minus-2.

Look ahead: The Caps and Rangers square off at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Verizon Center. It’s anyone’s guess whether Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer gets the start against the Rangers, who are expected to start backup Antti Raanta. 

MORE WIZARDS: Ten years later, Ovi looks back on 'The Goal'

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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