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Holtby giving Capitals fans reason to believe

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Holtby giving Capitals fans reason to believe

News and notes as the Capitals take part in a well-attended optional skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex foillowing Monday night’s 1-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers:

Perfect Braden:  Braden Holtby’s 33 saves against the Oilers were his most this season and his shutout was his first of the season and 21st of his career. Holtby has won four straight and has posted a 12-4-0 record this season with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

Those are numbers that should warrant strong consideration for Team Canada in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.  Holtby is now 4-1-1 in his career against the Oilers with two shutouts. Since the start of the 2012-13 season, Holtby ranks tied for second in the NHL in shutouts (18).

“Shutouts to me have a lot to do with puck luck,” Holtby said Tuesday. “Sometimes you play a lot better in games when you get scored on three times. The main thing is just finding a way to win. That’s all that matters. Your goal every game is to try and be perfect but hockey happens and you try to take every shot as you can and try to help the team win.”  

Charting Ovi:  Nine of Alex Ovechkin’s team-high 10 goals have come at even strength. He has just one power-play goal on a league-high 36 power-play shots. He has had no power-play shots blocked, but has had 19 miss the net. So that’s one goal on 55 attempts at the net.

More numbers: Ovechkin led all skaters in hits (7) and led the Capitals in shots (5) Monday night. John Carlson recorded a season-high seven blocked shots and Nicklas Backstrom won 14 of 21 faceoffs (66.7 percent).

Margin of victory:  The Caps have won by a 1-0 score 25 times in their history. Their last came on Jan. 14, 2015, against Philadelphia. Jason Chimera scored the game-winning goal in the first period and Braden Holtby stopped all 21 shots he faced.

Nice start: The Caps’ 14-5-1 (29 points) start is their best since going 14-5-1 to start the 2010-11 season. Their best sstart after 20 games came in 1992 when they went 15-5-0 (30 points).

Home dominance: The Caps are 8-3-1 at home this season, earning  at least a point in six of their last seven home games (5-1-1).

MORE CAPITALS: After pregame mishap, Holtby hopes Williams isn't superstitious

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Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

Niskanen takes the blame for all three Lightning goals

There was no tougher critic on Matt Niskanen’s Game 5 performance on Saturday than Niskanen himself.

Niskanen and his defensive partner, Dmitry Orlov, were on the ice for all three of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s three goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 loss. That was striking given the Orlov-Niskanen duo is typically Washington’s best defensive pair.

That was not the case on Saturday and Niskanen took full responsibility afterward.

“First three goals are all my fault,” Niskanen said. “I had a tough first 20:30 so I've got to be better next game.”

Pretty much no one played the first goal right.

The goal came just 19 seconds into the game. Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov looked like he could have gotten the puck, but instead played the body of Cedric Paquette. Niskanen stepped up at the blue line, but the Lightning got the puck past him creating a short rush that beat Braden Holtby who was way too far back in the crease.

Yes, Niskanen got caught a bit high, but he was just as at fault as Orlov, Kuznetsov and Holtby.

The second goal happened because Steven Stamkos tripped Orlov to create a turnover and it wasn’t called.

Niskanen got in between Ondrej Palat and the puck, but Palat beat both him and Holtby on the shot. Not sure I would put this one on Niskanen.

The third goal…well, that one was a bad play by Niskanen.

When you go one-on-one with a player, a defenseman cannot allow that player to turn the corner. That’s especially true when that player is defenseman Anton Stralman who is not exactly gifted with blazing speed. This was just a complete misplay.

Regardless of how many goals were strictly on Niskanen, that’s not the point. This was a message not so much to the media but to the team. That message was this: This one’s on me, I will be better next game.

Leaders always take responsibility. Niskanen is taking the blame here and saying he will be better in the hopes the team around him will be better as well.

They will need to be to win Game 6.

“A lot of people counted us out when we were down 0-2 in the first round,” Niskanen said. “Things got hard in the last series where we could have melted and we just kept playing. So that's what we've got to do again, bring our best effort for Game 6 at home, win a game and then we'll go from there.

“But we're focused on bringing our best game of the season for Game 6 and we'll be ready to go.”

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3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

3 reasons the Caps lost Game 5 to the Lightning

When the Capitals take to the ice at home on Monday, they will be playing for their playoff lives. They lost their third straight game on Saturday as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Caps to the brink.

Here is why the Caps fell on the road for the first time in this series.

A rough start

Nineteen seconds was all the time Tampa Bay would need to score in Game 5.

Dmitry Orlov turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Evgeny Kuznetsov chased after it, but instead of getting the puck he inexplicably played the body of Cedric Paquette. Paquette was able to chip it into the offensive zone to Ryan Callahan. Callahan tried to pass to the slot, but it hit off of Orlov right to Paquette who buried it past Braden Holtby who was very deep in the crease.

If Orlov doesn’t cough the puck up in the neutral zone, if Kuznetsov plays the puck instead of the body or if Holtby challenges that shot, that goal doesn’t happen. An ugly play all around for Washington.

A no-call on Steven Stamkos

Later in the first period, Orlov went to corral a puck in the neutral zone, but was pressured by Stamkos, fell to the ice and turned the puck over to Nikita Kucherov. It was very clearly a trip on Stamkos, but there was no call. Palat would score on the play to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

You can read more about the play here.

A rough night for Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen

Orlov and Niskanen is normally the Caps' best defensive pair, but they had a very long night. They were on the ice for each of the Lightning’s three goals of the game.

Orlov’s turnover led to the first goal, Stamkos’ trip of Orlov led to the second. On the third, Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman was somehow able to drive and turn the corner on Niskanen leading to a scoring opportunity that eventually deflected off the glove of Ryan Callahan and into the net. Stralman is not the speediest of players. The fact he was able to go one-on-one with Niskanen and get in behind him was surprising to see.

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