Holtby, Ovechkin lead way for Caps

Rookie takes 4-1 win, star winger nets first hat trick of sea­son

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY KATIE CAR­RERA

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

save.

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.

MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS

Alex Ovechkin, cen­ter, em­braces Nick­las Back­strom and John Carl­son af­ter his third goal of the game.

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