The defeat further cemented the Capitals in ninth place in the East, out of a postseason position with 61 points, and chasing the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who have a four-point lead and a game in hand. Washington has won only three of its last 11 games.
“It’s really frustrating,” Matt Hendricks said of the Capitals missing opportunities to advance. “A few days ago, we were first in the division, sitting third in the conference. Now we lose a couple. Going into tonight, we win tonight, we move ahead of Toronto and we’re in eighth. The carrot’s there, the determination’s there, I think, in this room. I think the focus is there — I just think the execution isn’t there right now.”
Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau each recorded a pair of goals and the Sharks went 3 for 6 on the power play, while Washington couldn’t convert on any of its four chances with the man-advantage. San Jose backup netminder Thomas Greiss recorded 39 saves to keep the Capitals at bay until the contest was out of reach.
Meanwhile, Washington made a curious choice in net, opting to start goaltending prospect Braden Holtby, who was told he was being recalled at 9:30 a.m. because Tomas Vokoun was battling the flu. Coach Dale Hunter denied the team was recalling anyone from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears as late as 5:20 p.m., just a little more than a half hour before the team announced Holtby had been summoned from the Bears.
Holtby, 22, said he found out he would be making his first NHL appearance of the season when he arrived at Verizon Center around 2 p.m. Hunter said after the game the team wanted to reward Holtby, who played the night before for Hershey, for solid play in the AHL and that the Capitals didn’t want Michal Neuvirth, who started against the New York Rangers on Sunday, to play in both of the back-to-back games.
While the Capitals may have hoped for some edge by engaging in the subterfuge of not allowing San Jose to prepare for Holtby to start, it wouldn’t make a difference in the outcome of the contest.
Holtby finished with 30 saves but admitted there were goals he would have liked to have back, including the Sharks’ first.
“There were some funny bounces tonight,” said Holtby, who insisted his preparation didn’t suffer from the late arrival and notice that he would start. “It’s just one of those games that I have to go back, look at some film and make sure I improve next time.”
The Sharks took the initial lead 12 minutes 12 seconds into the first period when a shot by Dan Boyle from the red line deflected off Pavelski, bounced off the ice, then off Holtby’s glove and into the net. Holtby was the third Capitals goaltender to be victimized by a shot from beyond the blue line in the past seven games — Vokoun and Neuvirth have each allowed a goal on a shot from distance during that stretch.