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Holtby, Capitals stay hot with win against Senators

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby tied his season high with 38 saves in a 2-1 win against the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center on Monday.

Holtby is 7-1-2 having made 10 consecutive starts.

"He's been outstanding," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Number of saves, and then big ones at the right times too. We've been pretty good here for a little stretch, but certainly not perfect, and he's cleaning up some mistakes that maybe make us look a little bit better than we've played."

Jay Beagle and Nicklas Backstrom scored for Washington. It was the Capitals' first win against the Senators since Dec. 7, 2011; Washington lost the previous seven games.

The Capitals (17-10-6) have earned a point in nine straight games (7-0-2), with Holtby playing an integral role. In 10 December games, he has a 1.97 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.

"I felt pretty good agility-wise," Holtby said. "I was reading the play fairly well, but at the same time, I thought my rebound control was one of the worst I've had this season [Monday]. Little things like that. It's kind of hard to judge, but there definitely were spots that I felt comfortable."

Erik Condra scored for Ottawa (14-14-6). Craig Anderson made 21 saves.

"The effort was there," Anderson said. "We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. We ran into a guy who was seeing the puck really well tonight [and] that's going to happen from time to time. Sometimes you've got to tip your hat to them. We did everything in our power to give ourselves an opportunity to win and it's all you can ask for."

Each team's power play received plenty of work in the first period, with a combined 8:54 on the man-advantage.

The Senators were more productive with eight power-play shots on goal, but Holtby scrambled around the crease to stop them all. Most impressively, he stretched to his left to snare Clarke MacArthur's one-timer with his glove, set up by a pass from Erik Karlsson parallel to the goal line at 4:32. Officials reviewed the play to see if the puck crossed the line when it entered Holtby's glove, and the original ruling of no goal was upheld.

"We all had a few good chances, just nothing is going in," MacArthur said. "It's tough in tight games like that. You want to get [a goal], try and help out there, but [Holtby] made a great save. There were a couple rebound chances and stuff around the net [that] just didn't go [in]."

On Ottawa's second power play, Holtby made another timely save, kicking out a Kyle Turris rebound attempt.

"I thought first period, there's no way we win that hockey game if Braden doesn't give us the performance that he did in the first," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

Despite having a two-man advantage for 1:06 late in the period, Washington never threatened to score on Anderson, who faced two total shots on the Capitals' first-period power plays.

Beagle gave Washington a 1-0 lead 13:59 into the second period, outracing defenseman Jared Cowen to receive center Evgeny Kuznetsov's long breakout pass. Beagle was able to sneak a shot past Anderson for his career-high fifth goal with Cowen hounding him.

"He makes an alley-oop, you know, kind of a high flip play, and that's hard for a [defenseman]," Beagle said of Kuznetsov's assist. "You could tell [Cowen] was kind of caught off guard, and I was lucky enough to get in front of him and kind of protect the puck and then, you know, I kind of fanned on the shot, I'm not going to lie to you, but it ended up working out, and it felt good. I had a couple breakaways the last five, six games, and it felt good to put one in."

Condra tied the game at 15:56 when he pickpocketed defenseman Mike Green as he attempted to leave the defensive zone, charging toward Holtby and beating him with a wrist shot.

With 35 seconds remaining in the second period and the Capitals on a power play, Backstrom scored from near the right half-wall. It was his sixth goal in his past five games.

"I think everyone is more comfortable out there with the system and everyone knows their roles and stuff," Backstrom said. "That's real important on a team, and it looks like we're finding it."

The Senators are off until Saturday when they host the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals, whose next home game is the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1, play at the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

Trotz did not divulge if Holtby will start against New York, though the 25-year-old wants to.

"That's not even a question," Holtby said. "I'd play every game if I could."

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