Capitals

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin steals the show in one-sided rivalry win over Penguins

Alex Ovechkin steals the show in one-sided rivalry win over Penguins

Alex Ovechkin stole the show in Wednesday's rivalry matchup as he scored twice to lead the Washington Capitals to the 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

How it happened: On the verge of a career milestone, Ovechkin didn't wait long to earn point No. 1,000. He scored just 35 seconds into the game off a nice curl-and-drag around Kris Letang before wristing it past Fleury. He would add a power play goal in the second period to extend the lead to 2. Justin Williams finished the Penguins off in the third period as he was on the receiving end of some Evgeny Kuznetsov magic from behind the net. The Penguins would manage two third period goals from Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, but it would not be enough to mount a comeback.

What it means: With the win, Washington now vaults the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points. The win extends Washington’s win streak to a season-long seven games and improves their record over the last 18 games to 14-2-2. The Caps are now 2-0-1 against Pittsburgh this season and 7-5-4 within the division.

Turning point: Ovechkin's first goal set the tone for the whole game, but it was his second period game that really slammed the door. Pittsburgh actually outshot Washington 28 to 16 in total shot attempts in the first period. By the end of the second period, the Caps actually led in total shot attempts 34 to 33. At that point, Washington was in complete control.

1,000: Ovechkin’s first period goal was career point No. 1,000 for the Great 8. You can read more about him reaching the milestone here and what exactly 1,000 points mean historically here.

Don't forget about Holtby: Braden Holtby continued his incredible play of late with 30 saves in the win. The Caps netminder has now allowed only three goals in the last four games.

Pushing around the Penguins: In their last two games against Pittsburgh, the Caps have outscored the Penguins by a combined score of 11-3.

It's not all good: Just about the only thing Washington didn't do well on Wednesday was stay out of the box. Washington took seven minor penalties on the game, four of which resulted in power plays. Both of Pittsburgh's goals came on the power play.

Look ahead: The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Washington as they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and division rival Philadelphia on Sunday. The Caps then have the quick turnaround with Monday night rematch with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Quick Links

Can Braden Holtby quiet goalie controversy, rebound from tough start?

Can Braden Holtby quiet goalie controversy, rebound from tough start?

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Braden Holtby has been here before. Every goalie in the NHL has good stretches and bad. Really, one thing that defines a goalie is how they overcome those bad stretches. Holtby had perhaps the greatest rebound a goalie could ever have, going from losing his starting job to Philipp Grubauer in 2018 to taking back the crease in the playoffs and leading the team to a Stanley Cup.

But could this year be different?

A poor start is one thing, but there are also other external factors that may be contributing.

In five games this season, Holtby has a .846 save percentage and 4.27 GAA. His save percentage is the worst among all goalies with at least four starts and his GAA is the second-worst behind only Devan Dubnyk’ s 4.56. It’s a small sample size, but those are horrific numbers made worse by Monday’s performance in which he allowed three goals on three shots before being pulled.

“It was a tough game for Braden and I think he'll be the first one to admit it,” Todd Reirden said after practice on Tuesday. “That's a game I think he'd like to do some things different. I think our team could have played closer to our identity than we did to give him a better chance to have success. But the good thing is he's accountable to it, he knows. He's accountable to himself, he's accountable to his teammates, he's accountable to everybody that he can be better than that and when he gets that chance he will.”

But will he?

Just 16 months removed from overcoming the worst stretch of his career and hoisting the Stanley Cup and still only 30 years old, it seems premature to declare Holtby as finished or to assume he won’t be able to dig himself out of this hole.

“Usually it's just getting back to the basics of things,” Holtby said when asked about overcoming a slump. “A lot of times when things are going your way, you're usually pushing forward too fast and make things [instead] of just letting them come to you. It's just getting back to the basics of playing, trusting your instincts and not letting it affect you. Just go out and play.”

“In times like these - good or bad - it's usually not as good as you think or not as bad as you think,” he added. “You just have to get yourself back to that level mentally where you can break things down and see just those little areas that might be just off a bit that could be the difference.”

But there are two external factors that could be putting pressure on Holtby mentally.

First, this year is the final year of Holtby’s contract. Playing in a contract year can be tough and Holtby certainly would not be the first player to succumb to the pressure that comes with an uncertain future. The second is that his replacement, Ilya Samsonov is now backing him up and doing a pretty darn good job with it.

In three appearances this season, Samsonov, 22, has a .944 save percentage and 1.43 GAA. He was Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2015 and the fact that his first season in the NHL happens to be the last of Holtby’s contract is impossible not to notice.

Holtby was asked if his contract or Samsonov’s presence was affecting him mentally.

“I don’t know, I just think it's wanting to win, wanting to get a good start, maybe getting a little ahead of myself,” he said. “In ways, trying to push too hard. Just take a deep breath and just go out and play. I mean, it's seven games in. A couple months, you won't even remember this conversation. You just stick to the process and keep doing what you think you can do to help the team win.”

“When you break it down like that, who his backup is, yes it is a different scenario,” Reirden said. “The one scenario that isn't different is that I still have plenty of confidence in him. Lots of confidence in him. He's been through this before. We saw that in the Stanley Cup year and then he ends up taking over and helping us win the Stanley Cup and be a huge part of it.”

While Reirden still professes his confidence in Holtby, the recent struggles as well as Samsonov’s strong play have at least given him pause.

Following Monday’s loss, Reirden said of Samsonov, “He's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and that's to make it like a decision every night of who's going to be considered to play that game.”

Reirden also would not commit to naming a starter for Wednesday’s game against a star-studded Toronto Maple Leafs team, but he seemed to be leaning towards Samsonov to give Holtby time to reset. At least that’s what it sounded like.

“Much like every player, goalies will go through situations like this and I'm sure that's how [Holtby] feels about the start to the year. I'm confident that we've got a few practices here, he gets to reset and work with [goalie coach] Scott Murray and get things settled in and then he's ready to go again.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Sitting firmly at third place in their respective divisions, the Capitals and Maple Leafs are both eager to grab another win for themselves in this classic Atlantic vs Metropolitan division matchup. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Wednesday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals, Game 8 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS VS MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs Maple Leafs

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: