Close games are often defined by who dares to make the first mistake. On a slow Friday night in D.C., the Washington Capitals came out on the wrong end of a close game with the New Jersey Devils, excellent at playing the sleepy game, who won 1-0.
The defining play was a misplay of the puck behind the net by Braden Holtby. Holtby left his nest to “create a battle,” he told reporters. He was trying to find Marcus Johansson, but was slashed by Jaromir Jagr as he played the puck.
“I hadn’t touched the puck very much throughout the game, so I didn’t really know what their forecheck was, and I turned around and saw the two guys pressuring pretty hard, so that usually means their half-wall guy is open.”
“I tried to be patient with my read, and I took too long, probably made the wrong read, and the guy [Jagr] slashed my stick when I went to clear it. At that point in the game, you have to pick the safe play, and I didn’t, and it cost us,” said Holtby.
Holtby was forced to let go of the puck, and it caromed to a ready and waiting Mike Cammalleri, who scored the game-winning goal in to a virtually empty net. Brooks Orpik was in front, but he didn’t stand a chance.
“In hindsight, a 0-0 game- at that point you just need to rip it up the half wall, up the glass, a safe play. That’s a mistake I can’t make,” said Holtby. “It looks unfortunate, cause its 0-0, but you can prevent that from happening by realizing what time of the game it is, what type of game it is, and then not being fancy with the puck. “
Holtby stopped 27 of 28 shots, and defenseman Karl Alzner thought his goaltender “played great.”
“I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but it looked like that guy [Jagr] got a good hack on him right as he was going to play the puck,” said Alzner. “That’s happened to me before and you can’t really do much about it, so it’s just a tough break. He played a great game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”
The Capitals were packing up to head to St. Louis shortly after the game, and the back-to-back game doesn’t give them a whole lot of time to dwell on their bad luck. These types of games are won or lost in a split second.
“Obviously we would have liked to be on the winning end of that, said Alzner. “That’s a big game for us, but the effort was pretty good for us, so we’ve got to be somewhat happy with that. But those two points are the ones we need.”