Braden Holtby’s frustration was visible for all to see as he was pulled from the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center. As he made his way down the tunnel to the dressing room, Holtby smashed his stick into the floor and then swung it with both hands into the wall.
Holtby allowed three goals on 19 shots to the Rangers. He was caught out of position on the first, when Derek Stepan banked a shot in off his skate. He lost the puck on the second tally, a slap shot by Brian Boyle from the top of the circle. The third came on the power play, when Ryan Callahan redirected a shot by Rick Nash.
“It has to be better, simple as that. That’s all I can really say,” Holtby said when asked about his game. “The second one I just didn’t see. I lost it for some reason; I don’t know if I was screened or not. The third one the guy shot it cross-screen and I believe it went off a guy’s pants in front and in. There’s nothing really you can do on that one. The second goal’s a big one that I have to be better.”
The start was Holtby’s 12th in the past 13 games. He’s stopped 331 of the 356 shots he’s faced in those appearances for a .929 save percentage . But his removal marked the second time in his past five starts that he has been pulled. In the Capitals’ 4-1 loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 27, he allowed four goals on 18 shots.
“My mind-set’s I want to finish every game, so I don’t really think about that,” Holtby said. “If that’s in the coach’s best interest to do, then I respect his decision. I’d like to battle through every challenge that I’m faced with, but that’s just the way it is.”
Coach Adam Oates said his decision to make the goaltending switch and bring in Michal Neuvirth, who recently got over an illness and hadn’t played since Feb. 7 at Pittsburgh, was more an attempt to spark the Capitals as a whole.
“Mostly to stop momentum. The first goal, obviously a little bit of bad luck …Obviously we’re in good control and [it] made it even playing field,” Oates said. “I thought maybe the second one he should have had. And then they score the third one. And I know it got deflected, but PP and I wanted to [stop] momentum.”