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Braden Holtby leads Caps to shootout win in goalie duel with Columbus

Braden Holtby leads Caps to shootout win in goalie duel with Columbus

Final score: Washington Capitals 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (SO)

How it happened: Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky held both teams scoreless through two periods, but Seth Jones put the Jackets on the board just 41 seconds into the third period. Dmitry Orlov responded just six minutes later, however, with a huge slap shot to tie the game at one. That forced the game to overtime. After no winner through five minutes, the game went to a shootout where T.J. Oshie scored on Washington's first attempt and Holtby turned aside all three shots he faced for the win.

What it means: With the win, the Caps maintain first place in the Metropolitan Division. They now lead the Columbus Blue Jackets by three points. The win also ties a franchise record for most home wins in a season (30). The Caps improved to 2-5 in shootouts on the season. This was their first home shootout win of the season.

Goals

Blue Jackets goal: Seth Jones from Brandon Dubinsky at 0:41 in the 3rd period. A Dubinsky shot from in close hit off the post and out to the top of the face off circle. Jones stepped up and fired it into the net past Holtby, who had not yet recovered from the initial shot off the post. Caps 0, Blue Jackets 1

Caps goal: Dmitry Orlov from Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams at 6:39 in the 3rd. Johansson held the puck behind the red line in the offensive zone, but saw Olrov open at the blue line. He found him with the pass and Orlov unleashed the monster slap shot to beat Bobrovsky. Caps 1, Blue Jackets 1

3 stars

1. Sergei Bobrovsky: The Caps really poured it on Bobrovsky in this one with 45 shots on goal, but he turned aside 44 of them in a brilliant effort. 

2. Braden Holtby:  Columbus didn't manage as many shots on net as the Caps did, but that shouldn't take away from the performance Holtby had. Per usual, he was strong in net, especially in overtime, matching Bobrovsky as the two teams battled into a goalie duel.

3. Dmitry Orlov: It seems fitting that Orlov would score the game-tying goal on Russian Heritage night for his first goal since March 4.

Look ahead: Washington wraps up its three-game home stand on Saturday against Arizona. They then hit the road for a five-game road trip that will see them go to Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Columbus and Toronto.

Tell us what you think: The Caps won, but the Blue Jackets and Penguins remain hot on the Caps' heels. Given Thursday's results, who would you say is in the driver's seat to win the Metro?

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Backstrom the catalyst behind Capitals' trip to the edge of advancement

Backstrom the catalyst behind Capitals' trip to the edge of advancement

WASHINGTON — It had been nine years since Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom last had a four-point game in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That was a different time, an era when Backstrom and his teammates too often faltered under the weight of enormous expectations.  That’s all gone now. There is a Stanley Cup banner hanging in the rafters at Capital One Arena to prove it. Now they can all just play. 

With teammate T.J. Oshie hurt and likely out for the season, Backstrom continued to raise his own game in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes. He had two goals and two assists in a 6-0 thrashing as Washington took a 3-2 series lead and pushed the Hurricanes to the brink of elimination. Alex Ovechkin added a goal and two assists.  

Backstrom’s last four-point playoff games was April 17, 2010. He had a hat trick that night and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. 

“That was probably Montreal, right?” Backstrom said before confessing. “Yeah, Ovi told me. He remembers everything.”

Those were darker days. The Capitals blew a 3-1 series lead against Montreal that year and maybe the best team of the Ovechkin era went out in the first round despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy. No wonder Backstrom needed help remembering. 

There is no such issue this season. The 31-year-old Swede is carrying the Capitals, who are one game away from advancing. It was his second two-goal game of the series. He has five total, which matches his career high for one playoff series set in 2010 against the Canadiens. He and Ovechkin, who has seven points in the series (three goals, four assists) set a tone and their teammates followed. 

"In all areas, too,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “Obviously they got on the point sheet, but their play away from the puck, on the forecheck, supporting each other, they're real tough to play against when they play like that and I thought they've been doing a great job all playoffs, too.”

Backstrom’s five goals matched what he had all last postseason when the Caps won the Cup. He missed games because of a broken finger, but still played in 20 and had five goals and 18 assists. He matched his total output of eight points in 2009 against Pittsburgh and 2018 against Columbus. His career best is again that Montreal series when he had nine points. Not that he cares about that now. None of the Caps do. If the production leads to wins and advancing to the second round, that’s all that matters.  

“It’s good for the confidence I think. But it’s going to be a different game in Carolina,” Backstrom said. “We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward. That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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Braden Holtby’s new franchise record overshadowed by blowout win and he’s just fine with that

Braden Holtby’s new franchise record overshadowed by blowout win and he’s just fine with that

WASHINGTON – On a night in which the Capitals erupted for six goals against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead, goalie Braden Holtby’s contributions were largely overshadowed. Nicklas Backstrom scored his fourth and fifth goals of the playoffs in a four-point night while Alex Ovechkin added a goal and three points of his own. Even Nic Dowd got into the mix as he scored Washington’s first penalty shot goal in playoff history.

When a team wins a game 6-0, it is easy to discount the contribution of the goalie and assume the offense carried the team. That was not the case on Saturday as Holtby played a pivotal role in Washington taking back control of its first-round series.

And he set a franchise record doing it.

With 30 saves, Holtby recorded his seventh career playoff shutout passing Olie Kolzig’s previous franchise record of six. Holtby now stands alone with the most postseason shutouts in team history.

But you won’t see him celebrating too hard.

“It means I’m getting old,” Holtby said.

Holtby may be the only goalie in the world who does not seem to care about shutouts. He has been consistent on this point throughout his career, always saying that shutouts only matter because it means he helped put the team in a position to win.

When it comes to individual accolades, however, Holtby is just not interested.

When asked what holding Carolina scoreless on Saturday did for his confidence, Holtby was blunt.

"Nothing,” he said. “It's a win. We regroup, we know they're going to come harder next game and we'll focus on that."

As focused as Holtby seemed to be after the game, was just as focused in it on Saturday as he turned in his best performance of the series. Despite the final score, the game was close halfway through with Washington clinging to a one-goal lead. Holtby was brilliant between the pipes, however, especially in the second period as Washington faced three straight power plays. He turned aside 15 shots in the middle frame alone to help the Caps keep their lead and eventually run away with the win.

“Our goaltender was tremendous,” Todd Reirden said. “Those things, if you can have the special teams and your goaltender at that type of a level then you're going to give yourself a real good chance to have success.”

The offense stole the headlines after Saturday’s win, but that’s a result the Caps do not get without Holtby’s record-setting performance in net.

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