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Holtby not letting himself off the hook

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Holtby not letting himself off the hook

From Labor Day through New Year’s, Braden Holtby has been the Capitals’ most reliable and consistent player. It was with that in mind that Barry Trotz was careful with his critique of his goaltender following the Caps’ 5-4 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

“Holts wasn’t absolutely fantastic,” Trotz told reporters after watching Holtby allow four goals on 29 shots through 65 minutes, then two more on three shots in the shootout.

“If you measure his game to what it was all year, he’d probably put this as one of the lower points for the year. “But he’s been outstanding for us all year.

“I’m never going to blame the game on Holts because he’s won us so many, but he’ll probably say it wasn’t one of his better ones. He’s been incredible this year. He’s bounced back every opportunity we’ve let him.”

RELATED: Goaltender comes off bench to beat Caps

Holtby, whose loss was his first since Dec. 5, was equally disappointed in his effort against the Blue Jackets, which left his NHL-best record at 24-4-2.

“If I make a couple saves I know I can make, you’re not asking those questions and it doesn’t change the way we played at all,” Holtby said. “This one, I have to be better. It’s simple.”

Holtby and the Caps were 68 seconds away from a 4-3 win when Brandon Saad used a burst of speed to get behind Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen and flipped a shortside backhander over Holtby to tie the score.

“That’s a hard play, when they cut in front,” Holtby said, “and I think I cheated a bit too much (to the far post) to try to stop him from going to the backside there and left a little bit of space open.”

Despite the shootout loss, Holtby still has not lost a game in regulation since Nov. 10, a 19-game stretch in which he has gone 16-0-3. During that time Holtby has faced an increased volume of traffic in his crease as opponents try to make it more and more difficult for him to see pucks.

That was certainly the case Saturday night but Holtby believes the Blue Jackets crossed the line when Nick Foligno skated by Holtby and clipped him under the chin with his stick blade, prying Holtby’s mask off in the process.

“They missed that one, I think,” Trotz said of the officials, who did not call a penalty on the play. “Those are dangerous plays. There’s no reason for it. (Foligno’s) just got to control his stick. Holts was in the crease. It is what it is.”

Holtby has had his mask knocked off in each of his last two starts and is getting frustrated by the liberties players are taking in his crease.

“Yeah, I was not expecting it,” Holtby said. “That’s a pretty standard play. A goalie is standing there all the time. It’s tough when you don’t get those (called). It’s pretty clear that’s a high stick on him.”

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Carlson's two goals lead Capitals to sloppy 5-3 win over Calgary

Carlson's two goals lead Capitals to sloppy 5-3 win over Calgary

The Capitals are a perfect 2-0 to start their five-game road trip after a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. It was a sleepy game for the Caps who were largely outplayed through the first two periods. A few short bursts of brilliance, however, were enough to ensure Washington never trailed.

Here is how the Caps won.

A gift for Carlson

John Carlson entered the game as the NHL’s leader in points. He is arguably the hottest player in the league. He doesn’t need gifts, but he was gifted a goal by Calgary goalie Cam Talbot early in the second.

After a sleepy first period, the Caps’ came out swinging in the second and Alex Ovechkin nearly connected with Nicklas Backstrom on a pretty passing play on the backdoor. The puck curled around the boards and Carlson stepped up and just fired a hopeful shot on net that seemed to catch Talbot by surprise as it hit the short-side for the goal.

That is a horrific goal that Talbot just should not have given up. If you watch, he actually shifts a little backward after the initial play missed. Perhaps Talbot misjudged where he was in net, but that is an angle he should have been able to easily cut off based on the position of the puck. Instead, he backed up, left the near-side open and Carlson hit it.

The goal extended Carlson’s point streak to a career-high eight games. He would add an empty-net goal to give him 20 points on the season.

Bank shot!

Just over two minutes after Carlson put the Caps on the board, Chandler Stephenson extended the lead to 2-0 with a great play behind the net to pickpocket Talbot.

Talbot went behind the net to corral a dump-in from Brendan Leipsic, but Stephenson never gave up on the play and zipped in behind the net after Talbot. He stole the puck away from Talbot. He was boxed in by the Flames’ netminder and two more Flames skaters so he attempted to center the puck, but it bounced off of defenseman Rasmus Andersson and into the net.

A 10-second response

Overall, this was not a great game for the Caps. They looked sleepy and out of sync, missing numerous easy passes in the offensive zone that ended their offensive opportunities. Two early goals in the second spotted them a 2-0 lead, but Calgary took control and Austin Czarnik tied the game at 2 late in the period. That briefly woke up the Caps and Ovechkin put Washington back on top just 10 seconds after the game was tied.

Calgary won the faceoff after the goal, but Radko Gudas forced a turnover that Backstrom picked up. Two forwards had gone past him in anticipation of entering the offensive zone, a third player was on the ice after getting hit by Gudas, one defenseman stepped to the boards to give T.J. Oshie a shove, but could not recover to stop Backstrom and suddenly Backstrom was in behind four players for a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin. He made the simple backhand pass on the rush and Ovechkin fired the one-timer into the net.

Jakub Vrana’s drive to the net

Michal Kempny fired a stretch pass to launch a breakout. It looked like Travis Hamonic could have grabbed the puck, but he couldn’t control it and left it out for Lars Eller to continue the attack. As Eller took the puck, Jakub Vrana drove hard to the net bringing Noah Hanifin with him and that left Tom Wilson wide open. Eller passed to Wilson who netted the knockout punch.

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Capitals debut Nationals-themed name plates in advance of World Series

Capitals debut Nationals-themed name plates in advance of World Series

The Capitals took to Twitter to share their support for their D.C. family in a unique and fun way.

Prior to Game 1 of the World Series, the Capitals decided to debut Washington Nationals-themed nameplates in their locker room.

 

The red and white nameplates displayed both team's logos. 

The two teams are pretty close. This is not the first time they have shared support for one another.

As the Nationals find themselves on a similar journey to the 2018 Capitals, players like Adam Eaton have said they draw inspiration from their counterparts.

During the NLDS series against the Dodgers, Alexander Ovechkin was in attendance to throw out the first pitch, and a little later the Nationals returned the favor.

The Nationals were invited to Capital One Arena for the game against the New York Rangers on October 18th because they had a night off. Eaton read the starting lines and ace pitcher Max Scherzer was supposed to drop the first puck but instead, threw the Washington Capitals a curveball, dropping the first baseball.

Both teams are on the road. The Nationals will face off against the Astros in Houston, Tuesday night at 8:08 p.m. while the Capitals take on the Flames in Calgary.

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