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Caps dig deep ditch early and can't climb out, Holtby struggles, Dowd hits milestone, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

I Can't Get Started - Monday's game between the Caps and the Colorado Avalanche at Capital One Arena featured an unusual 5 p.m. start time, and it seemed as though only one team got the memo as to the start time.

By the time the first television timeout rolled around at 8:49 of the first period, the Caps were down 3-0 on three shots on net and headed to the penalty kill (where they would fall down 4-0), starting goaltender Braden Holtby had been chased to the bench in favor of Ilya Samsonov, and the Caps had already recorded the only two five-on-five shots on goal they would manage in the game's first 20 minutes, both from Alex Ovechkin.

"I just think we were a step behind, and not at the same pace," says Caps center Lars Eller of the Caps' first-period performance on Monday. "We just weren't there. That's the best way to describe it, we weren't there."

Thankfully, things didn't get any worse after the first period, mostly because they really couldn't, but also because the Caps took some hashtag advice from their crosstown baseball brethren -- they chose to stay in the fight.

From the start of the second period onward, the Caps were a different team. They played with snarl and an intensity that was missing in the first, and they managed to get off the rumble strips and back in the game. But in the NHL, spotting a good team two goals isn't usually going to result in success. Spotting the undefeated Avs four goals ended in a 6-3 loss, as you'd expect.

Lift Me Up - After yielding six goals in the Caps' 6-5 setback to the Predators in Nashville on Thursday, Holtby had a second straight rough outing on Monday when he was pulled after surrendering three goals on as many shots. Including the third period of Thursday's game, he has been reached for seven goals on 19 shots in his last 26-plus minutes of work.

Holtby typically turns in a stout performance after a roughing outing; that's been one of his calling cards over the course of his NHL career. But he has had some extended slumps over the years, too. Most notable among those was a crisis of confidence midway through the 2013-14 season when the Caps made the self-defeating decision to carry three healthy goaltenders for a month and a half, and his infamous "reset" late in the 2017-18 season, just months before he was a critical component in the Caps' drive to their first Stanley Cup championship.

"There are always ups and downs," says Holtby. "The main thing is you want to make sure that the downs don't last very long. You try to use your experience to try and figure a way through it. Sometimes you've got to fight to find that feeling you get when you're on your game, and you've just got to find a way to win games. I haven't helped the team do that in the last couple, and I expect more from myself, and I'll be better in the future."

The 200 Club - Caps center Nic Dowd played in the 200th game of his NHL career on Monday against the Avalanche. Dowd debuted in the league with the Los Angeles Kings on March 22, 2016 in Minnesota. He has played 69 of his 200 career contests in a Caps sweater.

By The Numbers - John Carlson led the Caps with 25:32 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six shots on net and 11 shot attempts … Tom Wilson led the Caps with seven hits … Washington delivered a single-game team high of 29 hits on Monday, with 24 of those coming in the final 40 minutes of the game. The Caps' hit total against Colorado was only one fewer than their combined total of hits (30) in the previous 120 minutes of hockey they played at Nashville and at Dallas, respectively … Radko Gudas led the Capitals with four blocked shots and surpassed the 20-minute mark for the first time in seven games with Washington. He finished with 23:10 in ice time, including a team high of 4:19 in shorthanded time … Eller won 11 of 15 face-offs (73 percent).

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