Des­per­ate Cap­i­tals go back to Holtby for Game 3

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

Des­per­ate times called for a play­ers-only meet­ing in the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ locker room af­ter they fell be­hind 2-0 in their sec­ond-round play­off se­ries against the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins.

What was said? Matt Niska­nen called it “none of your busi­ness,” Alex Ovechkin in­sisted “it stays be­tween us,” and Justin Wil­liams said, “We’ll keep that be­tween us.”

Suf­fice it to say, when al­ter­nate cap­tain Nick­las Back­strom and other lead­ers spoke up, it wasn’t a cheery mes­sage.

“It was things that peo­ple need to say and things that some peo­ple need to hear,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “What was said is what needed to be said.”

What’s said mat­ters lit­tle if the Cap­i­tals don’t get the job done on the ice in Game 3 tonight in Pitts­burgh (7:30 p.m. ET). Al­ready, they face long odds, as just 18 of the pre­vi­ous 87 teams to drop the first two games of a best-of-seven se­ries at home have gone on to win the se­ries, and only four in NHL his­tory have come back from a 3-0 deficit.

Coach Barry Trotz didn’t feel he needed to say Braden Holtby would start Game 3 but did so when asked Sun­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call. Trotz pulled Holtby af­ter three goals on 14 shots in two pe­ri­ods on Satur­day night and seemed stunned to be asked about his sta­tus for Game 3.

“Yes, ab­so­lutely, why would you think oth­er­wise?” Trotz said. “No ques­tion he’s our goal­tender. Ex­pect him to start to­mor­row.”

Trotz praised Holtby’s men­tal tough­ness and body of work, and said the reign­ing Vez­ina Tro­phy win­ner will “be the dif­fer­ence in this se­ries.” Holtby has re­sponded well in

games af­ter be­ing pulled this sea­son, in­clud­ing back-to-back shutouts on one oc­ca­sion and a string of eight con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries on an­other.

Holtby, who is 7-4 with a 2.62 goals-against av­er­age and .911 save per­cent­age in eight games in these playoffs af­ter putting up far bet­ter num­bers in pre­vi­ous post­sea­sons, took the blame for not mak­ing a save on the Pen­guins’ third goal in Game 2. But he’s by far not the only prob­lem for the Cap­i­tals, who’ve had some ill-timed turnovers and mis­takes that have led to odd-man rushes.

“Every­body’s in the same boat,” Wil­liams said. “We’re just not do­ing quite enough. To beat them you have to do ev­ery­thing right. We’re not go­ing to shy away from it. We’re go­ing to go there and see what we’re made of. We’re just a hair off. You go to the puck and you’re a hair away. There’s lit­tle ticks here and there, lit­tle races, lit­tle bat­tles through­out the ice, and

we’re not quite there.”

The Cap­i­tals have out­shot the Pen­guins 71-44 through two games but were outscored 9-4. Niska­nen said the Cap­i­tals “can see our path to suc­cess,” and one of Oshie’s key points is that he and his team­mates must avoid frus­tra­tion.

For a team with a rep­u­ta­tion of early play­off ex­its and one that hasn’t made it past the sec­ond round in the Ovechkin era, there’s no short­age of ur­gency.

“No one in here needs a les­son about how to go home early,” Oshie said. “We’ve done that. It’s well known. The fans know it. We need to man up here and go into Game 3 and change our at­ti­tude and have some fun while we do it.”

PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU

Af­ter Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored four goals for the Ottawa Sen­a­tors in Game 2 on Satur­day in­clud­ing the dou­bleover­time

win­ner that put them up 2-0 in the se­ries against the New York Rangers, it might be time for an­other de­fen­sive strat­egy.

“Maybe I’m go­ing to put a checker on their checker be­cause he’s sup­posed to be their checker and he got four goals,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Sun­day on a con­fer­ence call.

RANGERS POS­I­TIVE

Vigneault be­lieves an ex­tra day off be­fore the se­ries shifts to Madi­son Square Gar­den for Game 3 on Tues­day will help the Rangers, even though he be­lieves they’ve played pretty well af­ter al­low­ing 21 shots in the first pe­riod of the first game.

“There are some ar­eas that I feel that we can be a lit­tle bit bet­ter at,” Vigneault said. “It’s go­ing to per­mit us to work on a cou­ple things, it’s go­ing to per­mit us to show maybe a lit­tle bit more video and it’s go­ing to give our play­ers an ex­tra day.”

AP PHOTO

Pitts­burgh Pen­guins de­fense­man Ian Cole (top) bat­tles for the puck against Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals cen­tre Nick­las Back­strom dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of Game 2 in an NHL Stan­ley Cup sec­ond-round play­off se­ries Satur­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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