December 17, 2018

Washington Capitals Game 20 Recap: Holtby, Orlov lead Caps over Oilers

HOLTBY MAKES 33 SAVES, MANY IN SPECTACULAR FASHION, FOR SHUTOUT

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Braden Holtby was the best player on the ice, Dmitry Orlov came up with a third period goal and the Washington Capitals won for the second time on their current five-game homestand, the longest of the season, beating the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 at Verizon Center on Monday.

The Capitals improved to 14-5-1 (29 points) this season, tying the team’s second best start (in terms of points and wins) in franchise history.

Orlov’s goal, his second in as many games, came with just 6:32 left in regulation, as it seemed the teams would play to a scoreless resolution and need overtime or beyond to settle it.

“We didn’t have much going on all night,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “[Orlov’s goal] was huge, guys stepped up. I thought we managed it [the game] really well once we got the lead. We managed it much better than we managed the game in total.”Holtby won his 12th game in 16 starts thus far and recorded his first shutout of the season — and the 21st of his career. He lowered his goals-against average to 1.88 and boasts a gaudy .926 save percentage.

“He absolutely deserved the shutout,” Trotz said. “He’s been one of our top players all year. Tonight he was by far our best player. There wasn’t anybody in the same universe as him.”

Forward Tom Wilson was even more effusive in his praise for Holtby. “He’s unbelievable. Honestly, we lose that game if he’s not in the net. If we have any other goalie in the league…we don’t win this hockey game.”

Edmonton outshot the Caps 13-7 in the first period and led 23-15 after two. The Caps played a large chunk of the second short-handed with Nick Backstrom in the box for a double-minor for high-sticking Oscar Klefbom.

But the penalty kill — and especially Holtby — did their jobs. Edmonton was 0 for 3 overall and managed just three shots with the man advantage.

“Overall, I thought we played not too bad defensively in front of our net, especially,” Holtby said. “I thought the guys had a lot more to do with this one than it looked.”

Holtby’s acrobatic save of Eric Gryba’s shot off a two-on-one in the third period was the highlight of the evening. “I think you’ll be seeing the replays on that save for probably the rest of the year if you missed it,” Wilson said. “It was pretty cool.”

Pretty cool, indeed.

Hard-luck loser Anders Nilsson made 31 saves for the Oilers (7-13-1).

“I almost think we were the better team today,” Nilsson said, “so it’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to score but I think [Holtby] stood up and played a great game for them and won the game.”

Holtby almost wasn’t available for this one. In pregame warm-ups, forward Justin Williams backpedaled into his goaltender, who was stretching near one of the faceoff circles.

It’s good for everyone Holtby and Williams were able to laugh it off.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed his sixth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Forward Andre Burakovsky was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
  • Alex Ovechkin led all skaters in hits (7) and led the Capitals in shots (5).
  • John Carlson recorded a season-high seven blocked shots for Washington.
  • Nicklas Backstrom won 14 of 21 faceoffs (66.7%).

NEXT GAME: Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Winnipeg at Verizon Center.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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