PITTSBURGH -- Adam Oates didn’t have to give a 500-word dissertation on goaltending to say how he felt about the play of his goaltenders Thursday night.
His actions were enough.
Seconds after Michal Neuvirth allowed a leaky goal to Pascal Dupuis 12:49 into the second period – even before the siren had finished sounding and the red light had stopped flashing – Oates ordered Braden Holtby into the game.
“I just thought there were goals that kind of deflated us and looking at them on the tape, I’m sure one of the goals Michal would want back,” Oates said. “That kind of hurt us, we’ve been struggling and I was looking for a change of momentum.”
Neuvirth surrendered two goals on 11 shots and has now allowed two back-breaking, momentum-changing goals in his last two starts. In seven appearances this season, Neuvirth is 1-4-1 with a 3.05 GAA and .889 save percentage.
And he’s the better of the Caps’ two goalies.
Braden Holtby surrendered three goals on 17 shots and is now 1-4-0 with a 4.74 GAA and .857 save percentage.
Through 11 games, the Capitals have allowed three or more goals nine times and are 0-8-1 in those games.
“It’s tough,” Neuvirth said. “I was mad at myself I got pulled. I felt bad for Holtsy. He gave up the three goals.”
Like any goalie, Neuvirth said he wanted to stay in the game after allowing the goal that gave the Pens a 2-1 lead.
“Of course as a goalie you want to finish the game,” he said. “Obviously it’s frustrating but I have to deal with it and work hard. [Oates]cjust said to hang in there to make me feel better.”
Holtby said he “actually felt pretty good” when he went into the game, was greeted with three goals on 12 shots, two of them on the power play.
“It got even worse after I went in and we didn’t do enough to win,” Holtby said.
Oates had spent the first 10 games of the season defending his players and the way they played. But on Thursday night he spread the blame, pointing out the faceoff loss by Mike Ribeiro that led to Matt Cooke’s goal that made it 4-1.
“I could have put Jay [Beagle] on that one faceoff and I talked to Mike about it afterwards,” Oates said. “He’s a veteran and he said, ‘I can’t lose a draw like that,’ and I kind of agree. You put guys in that you count on. We made too many mistakes at the wrong time.”
Oates also admitted his team was not as strong mentally as it needed to be against the Penguins.
“You’ve got to be a strong team and do as many little things as you can, which includes the goalie,” he said. “The penalty kill [27th in the NHL] has to get better, and that includes the goalie, too.”