The Capitals lost their third straight game on Saturday with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Here's how the three predictions for this game played out:
1. Jakub Vrana will get his first NHL point on the power play - Wrong
The Caps had their opportunities with six power plays, but Washington scored only once with the man advantage and it came from the team's top unit. Still, Vrana's unit played well and as the team continues to struggle on special teams we may see more from him in the next few games as Barry Trotz looks to find a spark.
2. Both teams will combine for over 15 shots on goal in the first period - Correct
Washington registered eight shots in the first period while the Lightning had 11. Two thoughts on this one. First, I'm glad I went with 15 rather than my original prediction of 20. Second, while eight does not seem like a lot, the Caps did well to get that many considering they took two penalties in the first frame. Without those penalties, the Caps likely would have had several more.
3. Tampa Bay will score two goals or fewer - Correct
The Lightning managed only one goal through 65 minutes of hockey. They may have gotten the win, but Tampa is still figuring out how to score without Steven Stamkos. Fortunately for them, they met a Capitals team on Saturday that's also struggling to find goals.
MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ: 'WE COULD CLEAN UP A FEW THINGS.'
TAMPA—The Capitals didn’t earn the two points they came here seeking, but they got one—and they’ve got goalie Braden Holtby to thank for it.
Holtby was easily the Caps’ best player Saturday at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning eked out a 2-1 shootout victory. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced, including a handful of difficult saves at critical junctures.
”He made some really key stops in that game, at really key moments when the game was 0-0 and another when it was 1-0 for them,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought his effort was real solid. Without his performance maybe we don’t get a point here.”
One such save came six minutes into the second period. Tyler Johnson won a defensive zone draw, Ondrej Palat flipped a long pass to Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning’s leading goal scorer. Kucherov gathered the puck on the fly, broke in alone and attempted to beat Holtby on the blocker side. Holtby, though, turned him back, keeping it 0-0.
“It was high flip, so you never know if it’s going to dig in or not,” Holtby said of the play. “So I didn’t know if I had the time to go out and get it, which I might have. But I tried to just play it patient.”
In the 3-on-3 overtime, Holtby came up with another game-changing gem. Palat went end-to-end, knifing through Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. The winger raced in at full speed and tried to beat Holtby through the five-hole. Holtby, however, slid over in the butterfly and slammed his pads shut just in time.
“Holts was great,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who tallied the Caps’ long goal. “He’s been great for us all season, as usual. He’s always giving us a chance to win. Now it’s just up to us to start scoring goals.”
Indeed, the Caps have now scored only 13 goals in the past seven games (3-3-1). And, for the most part, the offense struggled to get much going on Saturday, as well.
Holtby, however, chose to focus on the positives after the loss.
“Obviously, we got a big one from our power play,” Holtby said, asked how he digests a shootout defeat on the road. “But it shows character that we were able to come back from 1-0. They’re in the same situation as us; they were desperate, as well. A game like that can go either way, really.”
With the 32-save performance, Holtby’s save percentage improved to .922 and his goal against average dropped to 2.18.