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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Jackets 3, Caps 0

Caps come up blank in Columbus, Holtby suffers third shutout loss in nine starts, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps /

Nothingness - The Caps came up blank on Tuesday night in Columbus in a late season Metropolitan Division contest against the Blue Jackets, losing 3-0 in a game in which they never gave themselves enough of a chance to compete, let alone win. Sure, the Caps were playing for the second time in as many nights and Columbus was the more rested team, but this was a game where it never really felt like the Caps were "in it," despite the fact that it was a scoreless game after the first period Washington was down only 1-0 going into the third.

Video: WSH Recap: Capitals can't solve Bobrovsky in 3-0 loss

Over the years, the Caps have fared rather well against Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Coming into Tuesday's game, Bobrovsky owned a sub-ordinary 8-11-4 record, a 3.02 GAA and a .901 save pct. in 24 career appearances, winning exactly a third of his games against Washington. En route to their Stanley Cup championship last spring, the Caps won four of six games over Bobrovsky and the Jackets in the first round series between the Metro rivals. "Bob" posted a 3.18 GAA and a .900 save pct. in that series, right on par with his previous history.

In Tuesday's loss to Bob and the Jackets, the Caps managed all of seven shots on net and 16 shot attempts in the first 40 minutes. Five of those shots came from defensemen, four of them from Dmitry Orlov. By night's end, the Caps had bumped the shot counter up to 20, still well south of respectable but better than the single-digit total they sported a few minutes into the third, when they snapped a spell in which they had managed one shot on net from Matt Niskanen in a span of 19 minutes.

Thanks to some staunch netminding from Braden Holtby, the Caps went into the third period a puck shy of even, down just 1-0 despite having a third fewer shot attempts than the Jackets had shots on net (24). But Washington never showed anything in the way of sustained offensive verve until the hole was a goal bigger. Seven of the Caps' 20 shots on net came in the game's final 3:47, after Nick Foligno scored off the rush to make it a 2-0 game.

It's one loss in mid-February, but it was also a listless performance in a meaningful game against a heated division rival in the opener of a season-long six-game road trip. It also leaves the Caps with a 2-5-1 record in their last eight road games as they continue on to California where they'll first face the San Jose Sharks, winners of six straight.

Non-Support - For the third time in his last nine starts, Holtby got nothing in the way of offensive support. He played well to keep Washington within striking distance, as he did on Jan. 18 in a 2-0 loss to the Islanders - a game that was scoreless into the third period - and as he did on Feb. 3 in a 1-0 loss to the Bruins.

Like most goalies, Holtby found fault with his own performance in the wake of Tuesday's loss.

"It's out of my control," says Holtby of the lack of offensive support. "I just focus on my game. Tonight, on that second goal I just came up a little bit short; I pushed to [Foligno's] body instead of his blade. In the end, we probably would have had a better chance to tie it up. I don't worry about scoring goals. I try and focus on my job and our job defensively. And we know we need to do a better job than that, and we'll move forward."

Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | February 12

Holtby's teammates see it differently. They know they have wasted a few stellar performances from him of late. In those three shutout losses, Holtby has a .947 save pct. You can't ask any more of him on those games.

"If he plays like that, we've got to get a win - no doubt," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "[He's] one of the best and he gives us a chance to win every night. Those are the ones that you want to put a couple in the back of their net."

Spread Out - Washington was tasked with a quartet of penalty killing missions in Tuesday's loss to the Jackets, and it managed to kill them all successfully against a Jackets team that had scored three power-play goals in as many games against the Caps in their first three meetings of 2018-19.

The first of those kills came at 8:33 of the first, when Evgeny Kuznetsov was fingered for hooking. It was more than 10 minutes before the Caps went on the kill again, for a Michal Kempny hooking minor at 18:38 of the first. The third call on the Caps was a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 8:24 of the second, or 9:46 of playing time after the Kempny minor. The last of the four minors was a John Carlson slashing call at 4:52 of the third, a penalty that halted Washington's lone power play of the night. Carlson's penalty was certainly the least unnecessary of all the calls; he hacked noted Caps-killer Cam Atkinson on a shorthanded breakaway.

Washington's penchant for taking penalties has been problematic this season, to be sure. And Carlson's was the only one of the four that was remotely necessary. But those four kills were well spaced, and the Caps killed them all. They typically get into trouble when they take two or three of them in short order, unnecessarily taxing their shorthanded outfit. That didn't happen on Tuesday, but the Caps' optimal lineup - intact for the first time this season (including Holtby) in their 57th game - wasn't able to find its rhythm because of those four kills in the game's first 45 minutes, two in the first 18-plus.

Video: Reirden Postgame | February 12

"They did a better job of breaking out the puck than we did tonight," says Caps coach Todd Reirden, "but we didn't give ourselves enough opportunities to do that. The early penalties in the first kind of took us out of our flow and our rhythm, and forced us to overuse guys. And when you're in a back-to-back situation, then you need to play all four lines and get a little bit of a rhythm going. We just weren't able to establish that tonight."

By The Numbers - Niskanen led the Caps with 22:57 in ice time … Orlov led Washington with five shots on net - a quarter of his team's total - and six shot attempts … Nine of the Caps' 11 shots on net that came from forwards came in the third period … Twenty of the Caps' 36 shot attempts came in the third … Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson each had three hits to lead the Caps … Carlson led the Caps with three blocked shots … Washington won only 18 of 51 face-offs (35 percent) on the night, and among those who took more than one draw, only Nic Dowd (3-for-5, 60 percent) won more than half.

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