Braden Holtby was the Capitals’ best and most consistent player during round-robin play, stopping 74 of 80 shots in three games. But, Wednesday, during Game One of the Caps’ first-round series against the New York Islanders, the goaltender was at times a liability. Holtby was at fault for two iffy goals in the second half of the game, including Josh Bailey’s game-winning shorty.
The Capitals initially took a 2-0 lead due to two TJ Oshie second-period, power-play goals. Holtby then surrendered a gaal with 1:07 remaining in the period after Jordan Eberle beat him in the high slot. Holtby tracked the puck and saw it the entire way, but missed stabbing the biscuit out of the air with his glove.
“First goal obviously can’t go in,” a disappointed Holtby said after the game.
“Haven’t seen a replay of it yet. Can’t really tell you too much,” Holtby continued. “I just know that’s a bad goal at that part of the game. That’s on me. That changes the momentum of the game right there. That’s just something you move on with. You realize the importance of the little things and try to do them better next time.”
The goal gave the Islanders life as they went into the locker room and the Barry Trotz-coached team came out fired up for the third period. Anders Lee scored 51 seconds into the period to tie up. Then, to complete the collapse, Holtby turned the puck over while trying to force a pass during a Capitals power play. Brock Nelson got his stick on Holtby’s pass, picked up the loose biscuit, and found Bailey wide open for a one-timer.
“The shorthanded goal was just miscommunication,” Holtby said. “I think I was fighting for it in the ceiling and then didn’t realize that there wasn’t much time there. I should have just held on it. I thought there was more time. That was something you don’t want it to happen. It was kind of a weird play. It’s more that first one, make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Holtby is one of the leaders on the Capitals and has backstopped the team in 93 games over eight seasons, including the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2017-18. “First game in a series doesn’t say much about how it’s going to go,” Holtby said. “It’s how you respond from here on out.”
He added, “A game like today, I want to make sure that I have my best game come next game. As a group, individually if we all expect more of ourselves, that’s how we’ve won in the past and that’s how we’re going to do it again.”
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