Second thoughts: Tough return for Holtby

Second thoughts: Tough return for Holtby
January 5, 2014, 10:45 am
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Oates: "We're going through a lousy stretch right now"

Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals reflect on Saturday night’s 5-3 road loss to the Minnesota Wild and look ahead to their longest non-Olympic break of the season. They don’t play again until Thursday night in Tampa:

Tough return: The Capitals allowed just 11 shots – by far a season low – but Braden Holtby stopped just six of them. Making his first start since Dec. 21, Holtby has now allowed five goals in each of his last the starts and has not won a game since Dec. 7. He’s 0-2-1 since then and has allowed 18 goals in 10 periods of work. Holtby told reporters in St. Paul that a player’s confidence “always takes a hit if things aren’t going well. I don’t think it’s at a low by any means, I still believe in myself.” Holtby said he might have been guilty of “overthinking” on the Wild’s final goal. Three of the other four came on screens. “It’s like everybody,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “You help a guy fight through it. That’s what being a pro’s about, right? You’re going to have your moments where you struggle, and it’s for the other guys to help him through it, no matter who it is.”

No love in St. Paul: The Caps fell to 0-6-1 at XCel Energy Center and are the only team in the NHL without a win there.

Cookie cutter: Former Capitals irritant Matt Cooke picked up an assist, giving him four in his last five games. He also matched his season high with six hits.

But they won: The 11 shots on goal tied a franchise low for the wild and marked the first time they’ve won a game with such a low total. “We’re going through a lousy stretch right now where we’re playing good hockey and getting lousy results,” Oates said. “Eleven shots on the road should be good enough and it’s not and we’ve got a find a way to play better.”

Blame to go around: As much as Holtby’s numbers looked bad in the loss – his save percentage dropped from .915 to .910 – there were defensive breakdowns in front of him. On Nino Niederreiter’s second period goal, forwards Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin left Niederreiter all alone in the slot. Holtby was also screened on three power-play point shots that could have been blocked.

Killer penalties: The Capitals took five minor penalties that gave the Wild power plays – Troy Brouwer for hooking, Steve Oleky for roughing, Karl Alzner and Mikhail Grabovski for shooting the puck over the glass, and Jay Beagle for tripping. The Wild converted on three of them. “Point is, you can’t keep taking penalties,” Oates said. “You can’t.”

Green light: Mike Green’s two-goal game was his first of the season and first since April 27, 2013, the final game of last season. His first goal featured am impressive toe drag; his second came off a lucky bounce off the back boards on an errant shot.

Look ahead: The Caps have a complete day off today and will be back on the ice Monday at 10:30 a,m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.