The first time Washington was shut out since Dec. 9 of last year (a 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres) wasn't pretty. If you haven't already, check out the game story from Saturday's hard-copy edition of the Post for even more on the breakdown.
This was not the third career NHL start, or fourth appearance, that Braden Holtby had in mind. The Capitals' 21-year-old netminder gave up three goals on five shots, prompting Coach Bruce Boudreau to replace him with Michal Neuvirth 9:07 into the contest, as much for a momentum swing as to protect Holtby's confidence.
"The first one was a little bit of a bad-luck goal but the second one he would like to have back," Boudreau said. "He was probably still thinking about it when the third one went in. I knew he was pretty rattled and it was only his fourth game, so I thought it was better to get him out of there and protect him than to let him stay in."
Unlike in the American Hockey League, where Holtby would have a relatively quick opportunity to bounce back, there's no telling when or if he'll get another crack in an NHL game while he in on his current recall assignment.
"Even if I had played good tonight I'm not really sure when my next game would be," Holtby said. "At the same time, it's been my rule since I've been growing up, is never have two bad games in a row. So I'm looking forward to the next one already. There are some things I'm going to need to work on in preparation and some technical things. I have to be better next time."
The third Atlanta goal, the bad-angle shot by Evander Kane which at first looked like it may have deflected off something in front of the net, on replay appears to have bounced off Holtby's leg and into the net.
"Third one, [I] was just trying to do too much and trying to find the puck too soon and I had it myself," said Holtby, who was asked if he expected to be pulled. "Yeah, whenever you're down 3-0 right away you're looking for a change in momentum or something. And I wasn't happy with any of those three goals. I wasn't happy with my game today, I should be better."
--Mike Knuble never returned after being struck in the face by a shot of Eric Fehr's in the second period, but he was still at Philips Arena at the end of the game. Boudreau said he expects the veteran right wing to be out "a little while".
--While the Capitals' multiple sets of back-to-back games this month can be grueling, it's probably a good thing they get the chance to put this game behind them immediately with a matchup against the Flyers tomorrow night in the friendly confines of Verizon Center.
"It's done, tomorrow's a new day and it's going to be a new game," Alex Ovechkin said.
--Boudreau said several of the defensemen had a rough night and it's probably not a bad guess that he might have been referring to the pairing of Tyler Sloan and John Erskine. Sloan was on the ice for each of the first four Atlanta goals while Erskine was on for three of those first four.
--Alexander Semin's nine-game point streak was snapped tonight, but what's worse is the winger was a minus-three and missed the net on a prime two-on-one chance with Ovechkin in the second period just before Dustin Byfuglien scored the Thrashers' fourth goal.