It was a difficult day all around for Braden Holtby.
Hours after learning the Capitals had acquired Jaroslav Halak from the Buffalo Sabres, Holtby turned his attention to facing the Flyers in his fifth straight start.
It didn’t go well.
Holtby allowed four goals on 18 shots and was pulled in favor of rookie backup Philipp Grubauer in the Capitals’ 6-4 loss to the Flyers.
Holtby did not speak with reporters after the game but Caps coach Adam Oates said he had already spoken with his 24-year-old goalie.
“What we told him [before the game] was that George [McPhee] wanted to move a guy that didn’t want to be here [Michal Neuvirth] and not to look past that,” Oates said.
“We had two guys [Neuvirth and Marty Erat] that didn’t want to be here and George moved them. When it becomes public – it wasn’t a distraction; I’m not going to use that term – but those guys get a fresh start and that means an opportunity for someone else.”
To be fair, Holtby didn’t get a whole lot of support. At the time he was replaced the Caps were getting dominated in shots, 18-4.
“I think we never have a good game after trade deadline,” said Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored his league-leading 44th goal of the season with newcomer Dustin Penner parked in front of Flyers goalie Steve Mason.
“Maybe guys put pressure on themselves. Today the start was not how we’re supposed to start the game, especially in Philly. Tomorrow’ going to be a big game [in Boston]. Hopefully, everybody’s going to regroup and play well.”
Ovechkin said Holtby needs to remain positive because the Capitals will need him down the stretch. Halak is expected to start against the Bruins on Thursday.
“We had good goalies, but right now we have a guy who’s experienced in the playoffs,” Ovechkin said of Halak, who stunned the Caps in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. “It’s good for us and I hope he’s going to be good.”
Nicklas Backstrom said he thought the Caps looked too “sleepy” against the Flyers, who moved four points ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Oates agreed, saying until Tom Wilson and John Erskine got into first-period fights with Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier the Caps didn’t show enough push-back.
“We let them get into the game and we’re not,” Oates said. “We didn’t come out with enough to let them know we’re here.”
That will need to change against the Bruins, whom the Caps play for the second of three times this month. The Caps beat the Bruins 4-2 in Boston on Saturday.