Holtby, Ovechkin lead way for Caps
Rookie takes 4-1 win, star winger nets first hat trick of season
toronto — For the second straight game, rookie goaltender Braden Holtby ensured that the Washington Capitals wouldn’t need too much offense to take home two points on the road.
Holtby made 35 saves and Alex Ovechkin recorded his first hat trick of the season to propel Washington over the TorontoMaple Leafs, 4-1, on Saturday night in front of 19,554 at Air Canada Centre. The game marked the first time Holtby has started in consecutive NHL contests, but neither that nor the attention brought by the spotlight of a “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast fazed the 21-year-old Saskatchewan native.
With two wins in three days, Washington concluded its trip by claiming five of a possible six points. The Capitals (27-14-8) also moved two points closer to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which has a one-point edge for the Southeast Division lead with 63.
From 5 minutes 59 seconds into the game it was apparent Holtby felt comfortable and poised in the Washington net. The Capitals gave up a two-onone rush at the conclusion of a power play as Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski came out of the penalty box. After some back-and-forth passing, Tyler Bozak took a shot from close range that Holtby coolly turned aside with a left-pad
The Capitals woke up midway through the opening period to create chances and gain territorial advantage against Maple Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who would finish with 27 saves.
Washington’s adherence to driving the net and seizing any opportunity to take a shot on goal paid off when a harmless-looking point shot by Jeff Schultz wound up over the goal line after Ovechkin tipped it in for a 1-0 Capitals lead.
It was just the second first-period goal of the season for Ovechkin, with the other coming way back on Nov. 14 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
But it was also the second time in as many games that the Capitals got a jump on their opponent and gained momentum.
In the second period, Washington couldn’t add to its lead but didn’t need to thanks to more confident play from Holtby. Although the Capitals were outshooting the Maple Leafs, 23-17, Toronto (19-23-5) still had prime opportunities that forced Holtby to make another pad save on Bozak and a couple of acrobatic moves to prevent a bouncing puck from trickling into the net behind him.
Ovechkin added his second goal of the game to make it 2-0 just 1:12 into the third when he shot a rebound of Mike Green’s point shot between Giguere’s legs. The score gave Ovechkin his first multiple-goal game since Oct. 30.
The Maple Leafs answered quickly, though, as Tim Brent scored to ended Holtby’s shutout bid less than two minutes later.
Buoyed by a vocal home crowd, Toronto began to surge back, getting plenty of time in its offensive zone and causing the Capitals to chase the play for a few shifts. Washington quickly responded.
Matt Hendricks, who fought with Toronto’sMike Brown in the first period, manufactured his own breakaway by picking the pocket of a Maple Leaf at center ice. With no opposing skaters around, the gritty forward skated down the center of the ice, faked a shot, pulled up and deked around an outstretched Giguere to score one of the Capitals’ prettiest goals of the season to make it 3-1.
More stellar play by Holtby ensured Toronto, which forced shootouts after facing third-period deficits in each of its previous two meetings with Washington this season, wouldn’t make a third comeback. He made a dazzling save in the final two minutes of the game, diving across the net to stop an attempt by Phil Kessel while Toronto had Giguere pulled for an extra attacker.
Ovechkin added his third tally with a shot into the empty net for his fifth point in two games.
Capitals note: Mike Green was named as an alternate captain to the NHL All-Star Game, along with Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, Tampa Bay’sMartin St. Louis and Chicago’s Patrick Kane. Green will join the team captained by Carolina’s Eric Staal as will Kesler, while St. Louis and Kane join Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom. The alternate captains will assist the captains in selecting each team’s roster for the game.
Alex Ovechkin, center, embraces Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson after his third goal of the game.