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Trotz sends strong message to team by pulling Holtby

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Trotz sends strong message to team by pulling Holtby

Braden Holtby has had a Vezina-caliber season thus far, but the first half of Friday's game against Tampa Bay was not among his best. The Caps netminder gave up three goals in just 12 shots to the Lightning, prompting Barry Trotz to pull Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer. In so doing, Trotz hoped to send a strong message, but not to Holtby.

"We've got so used to Braden being so strong for us we tend to be a little loose sometimes and he's been erasing our mistakes," Trotz said.  "I was sort of making a statement, ok, enough's enough.

"He's been our MVP from game one on. Why are we doing this to him? So I pulled him out and put Grubi in."

RELATED: Why it was deja vu all over again for Grubauer

Even with Friday's game, Holtby has registered a .931 save percentage and leads the NHL with a 1.92 GAA. There have been a number of games in which he has carried the Caps to a victory despite the team being outplayed by the opposition. Trotz wanted to make sure the team knew Friday that this time, they were on their own.

"I told them between periods. I said, let's get one thing straight, this is not a reflection on Braden's play. This was on everyone else's play."

"I think that that was just kind of a message to us that Trotzie's not going to let him bail us out tonight, we're going to have to do it ourselves," Taylor Chorney said.

It's a message the team heard loud and clear as they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 5-3. It was the first time the Caps had erased a three-goal deficit to win in regulation since Oct. 16, 2008.

For his part, Holtby understood that the 3-0 deficit was not all on his shoulders.

"It's a little easier to move forward when I can look at the film and know those goals, there's not much I can really do on them," Holtby said. "They happen. It's just that fact that you want to do more. You want to help the team a bit more."

Those games will happen. The important thing for the Caps, who have looked dependent on their netminder in recent weeks, is that they showed they can win even when Holtby's not at his best.

Notes from practice:

Knicked up? Alex Ovechkin left practice early after getting "knicked up" per the team, but it does not appear to be serious and every indication is that Ovechkin's status for Sunday's game is not in doubt.

Maintenance: Justin Williams had a maintenance day on Saturday and did not practice. Stanislav Galiev skated in his place on the second line.

MORE CAPITALS: Refusing to lose: Caps stun Lightning with emotional comeback

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A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

A pair of firsts: Dmitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd score first goals for the Capitals

Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets featured a number of high-profile NHL stars. In a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division, you would expect Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Braden Holtby or Sergei Bobrovsky to be the heroes.

While Ovechkin did score and Holtby recorded a shutout in a 4-0 win over Columbus, it was Washington’s fourth line that stole the show as Dmitrij Jaskin and Travis Boyd each scored their first goals as Capitals.

While playing well this season, Jaskin has struggled finishing offensive chances. This is a player with 25 career NHL goals and who scored 13 goals in a single season in 2014-15. And yet, coming into Saturday’s game, Jaskin had yet to score a goal in 22 appearances with the Caps. The way he finally got into the net was by doing the same things he’s been doing effectively all season.

One of Jaskin’s best attributes is that he always goes to the net when he’s in the offensive zone. Boyd had the puck high in the zone and drew both Blue Jacket defensemen to him. Jaskin, as always, was headed to the front of the net and got in behind Columbus’ overly aggressive defense. Boyd looked for him on the pass, but it hit off of Jaskin’s skate and went directly into the top shelf behind a shocked Bobrovsky.

“I’ll take it,” Jaskin said. “Even if it was off the skate, I’ll take it any day.”

Boyd had an even more memorable night as he scored not only his first goal as a Cap, but the first goal of his NHL career.

Alex Ovechkin pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone launching a two-on-one with Boyd. Ovechkin looked ready to wrist it, but instead passed it to Boyd who had plenty of net to shoot on as Jonas Korpisalo, who came on in relief of Bobrovsky after the first period, of course expected Ovechkin to shoot.

It was a nice moment not just for Boyd to get his first goal, but for it to come off the stick of Ovechkin who Boyd gave an assist to last season for his first NHL point.

“Pretty cool how it worked out for me having my first assist be on an Ovi goal and he feeds me a beautiful pass,” Boyd said. “Had a wide-open net for my first goal so pretty cool.”

It was truly a night of firsts for Washington with Jaskin’s first goal, Boyd’s first goal and the Caps walking away still in first place of the division.

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Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin takes over NHL goals lead in 4-0 win at Columbus

Alex Ovechkin is taking over. 

With a goal and an assist in Saturday’s decisive 4-0 shutout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ovechkin continued one of the hottest streaks of his career. 

At 11 games, this is Ovechkin’s second-longest point streak in his brilliant career. He has 10 goals and six assists during that stretch, and has taken over the NHL goal lead with 22 through 29 games. 

This outburst has helped make up for a stretch where Washington missed center Evgeny Kuznetsov for six games, and they still don’t have forward T.J. Oshie (concussion). He’s missed 11 games in a row. 

The power play has dried up with the personnel on the top unit in and out due to injury. Tom Wilson, who replaced Oshie in the “bumper” role in the slot on the power play, has missed two straight games. That hasn’t hurt Ovechkin at all. He has 16 points during the stretch – but 15 of those are at even strength or with the opposing goalie pulled (two goals, two assists) and a chance to put the game away.   

That’s a big deal. Washington’s power play during that stretch is 6-for-32, yet Ovechkin is still producing. Dating to Nov. 11 the power play is actually 6-for-39 (15.4 percent). He isn’t feasting in that area, which is normally a lock.

Ovechkin leads the NHL with 22 goals. He’s on pace for 62. That probably isn’t happening, and he will cool off at some point. But he’s put himself in legitimate contention for an eighth 50-goal season. Ovechkin just missed at 49 goals last year. 

A lot of Ovechkin’s work has come with center Nicklas Backstrom by his side. But he’s become a playmaker, too, lately. He showed that unselfish side again on a 2-on-1 with Travis Boyd against Columbus.

Last year Boyd earned his first NHL point when he was pushed into emergency duty on the top line in a March game at Philadelphia. He had a sweet spin-o-rama pass to Ovechkin for a goal. On Saturday, Ovechkin pushed a pass to Boyd , who scored his first NHL goal. 

It’s been that kind of month. Ovechkin goes for 12 in a row Tuesday against Detroit due for both a power-play goal and a multi-goal game, which he has done just once during the streak (Nov. 19 vs. Montreal). 

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