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Holtby OK with sitting out finale, tying wins record

Trotz says Capitals' pursuit of Stanley Cup more important than 'individual glory'

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If the Washington Capitals held any kind of internal debate about whether to start Braden Holtby against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, it apparently didn't last very long.

The Capitals' goaltending plan entering the weekend was to split their final two regular-games between Holtby and backup Philipp Grubauer. That Holtby equaled Martin Brodeur's NHL single-season record Saturday against the St. Louis Blues by earning his 48th win wasn't going to change anything.

Holtby, 26, had what might have been a once-in-a-career chance to make history, to put his name ahead of Brodeur's in the record book with win No. 49. But to Capitals coach Barry Trotz, the decision to sit him was, ultimately, a no-brainer; Grubauer was in net, as planned, in a 2-0 loss to the Ducks at Verizon Center.

Trotz's message was clear: Nothing takes precedence over the pursuit of the Stanley Cup, which begins Thursday when the Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series.

"It was a plan all along to stick with it for a couple reasons," Trotz said. "It was a back-to-back; why put our player at risk? You see a number of players that have gone down in their last game around the league and he shares the record. So I think the bigger plan is about what we want to do as a team. He's too important to put at risk for individual glory, so we're not doing that."

Trotz no doubt noticed how goaltender Matt Murray was injured in the Pittsburgh Penguins' regular-season finale Saturday at Philadelphia when he was struck in the head by the leg of Flyers center Brayden Schenn. The Penguins were already missing No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury because of a concussion, sending them into the postseason with, potentially, Jeff Zatkoff and 20-year-old Tristan Jarry, who was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Sunday, as their options in goal.

Trotz also saw center Jay Beagle leave Saturday after being struck on the left ankle with a shot by Vladimir Tarasenko, creating the possibility the Capitals may have to begin the playoffs without one of their best faceoff men and penalty-killers.

Trotz discussed the decision with Holtby and said the goaltender was "great with it." Holtby said he didn't try to talk Trotz or goalie coach Mitch Korn into changing their minds.

"I leave that up to the coaches," Holtby said. "That's not my job to decide."

Video: ANA@WSH: Holtby gets an ovation from the Caps fans

He wound up settling for a share of the record with Brodeur and watching from the bench Sunday when the Capitals saluted him with a video tribute during a first-period television timeout. That wasn't too bad at all after Brodeur, now an assistant general manager with the Blues, congratulated him outside the visiting locker room at Scottrade Center on Saturday.

"It's almost even cooler to be sharing the record with him than to have it yourself because he's a legend," Holtby said. "He's arguably the best goalie that ever lived, and to be beside him, that's a huge honor."

At least Holtby got to finish the regular season in uniform. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of the season on Saturday, was in street clothes along with center Nicklas Backstrom and defensemen Brooks Orpik and John Carlson. Trotz gave all four the night off because they were "nicked up."

The game meant nothing to the Capitals, who clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs on March 28. The Ducks needed the win to finish first in the Pacific Division, so coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't about to sit out either of his leading scorers, Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry (who scored a goal). However, he did admit that "I'm sure it passed through everybody's head."

The Ducks sent goaltender John Gibson and center Ryan Kesler back to Anaheim following their 5-3 win at the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday because they're dealing with lower-body injuries. Gibson and Kesler are expected to be ready when Anaheim opens its Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators on Friday, and there was no point in risking further injury.

"It's a double-edged sword," Boudreau said. "You've got to play hard to get in the playoffs and everything else, but that ability to get hurt, it's always there. And it seems the harder you play, the more guys that are going to get hurt, but you can't worry about it. It's like crossing the road; you might get hit by a car, but I'm still going to cross the road."

Though the Capitals opted to keep Holtby on the curb, that didn't diminish anything he or his teammates accomplished during the regular season. He understands what happens in the playoffs will be remembered more.

"It was a fun experience," Holtby said of tying the record and meeting Brodeur. "The guys were pretty excited and we shared it together, which was fun, and got it out of the way and now we can really focus on what we're trying to accomplish."

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