Capitals

Capitals

WASHINGTON – It was the last thing Braden Holtby thought about as the final seconds ticked off the clock in another Capitals’ win.

An ugly game against an undermanned team featured penalty after penalty and Holtby was a big reason that an early 1-0 lead held up for almost 60 minutes against the New Jersey Devils. In the end, that meant he tied Olie Kolzig’s franchise record for career shutouts at 35. 

“I just found out about it,” teammate Nicklas Backstrom said a few minutes after coming off the ice following the eventual 3-0 victory. “We’ll let him know about.”

Holtby made 25 saves, six of them on six different Devils power plays. It made for a stressful night where Washington couldn’t convert on its five man-advantage chances, including a 5-on-3 in the first period for almost a full two minutes. One mistake, and New Jersey would be back in it after a goal by Andre Burakovsky 2:40 into the game. 

“It's shutouts. They've obviously been a little harder to get the last couple years,” Holtby said. “But it's cool. It's cool to be part of an organization for long enough to be able to do that.” 

Holtby, of course, accomplished in 407 games what took Kolzig 711 games. That will probably come up when Kolzig, who still works for the organization, reaches out to congratulate Holtby. Backstrom said there’s no doubt that Holtby is going to have that record all to himself soon. 

 

He has started seven of the past eight games for Washington and stopped 188 of the last 202 shots on goal (.931 save percentage) as he finds his game with the Stanley Cup playoffs just a month away now. 

And with six wins in a row, Holtby and the Capitals are back alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 87 points. They again passed the New York Islanders (85) and gained ground on the Pittsburgh Penguins (81) and the Carolina Hurricanes (79), who lost on Friday. 

If the season ended today – and there are still 14 games to go – Washington would host the Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That can and will change multiple times over the final weeks of the season. Too much time left to think about that. But a fourth straight division title would be nice. Holtby has the Capitals pointed that way.

“You can easily look in his direction for the success we've had,” coach Todd Reirden said. “It's come in a number of different areas, but in this particular case he's been outstanding. Tonight was just another example of it. Other areas we've made some improvements in, obviously power play, penalty kill, some of those areas have been a lot strong for us and overall our team commitment, team game has been closer to where they need to be. But at the end of the day it comes back to No. 70.” 

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