Wednesday night, for the fourth time in his career, Braden Holtby faced the Pittsburgh Penguins. And for the fourth time in his career, Holtby came out with a loss.
While many things went wrong for Washington in its 4-0 loss to the Penguins at Verizon Center – from a lack of execution at even strength, inability to consistently set up on the power play to inaccurate passes particularly in the defensive zone – Holtby also didn’t have his best outing.
Holtby, who has .874 save percentage and 4.37 goals-against average against Pittsburgh, finished with 36 saves in the defeat but when the Capitals needed a key save in the first period, it wasn’t there.
Pittsburgh’s first goal came on what should have been a harmless point shot by Paul Martin, but with Steve Oleksy and Chris Kunitz tied up by the hash marks Holtby didn’t catch more than an initial glimpse of the shot.
“Kind of saw the release, knew it was kind of going glove side somewhere. Didn’t really know where,” Holtby said. “That’s one of those that just sometimes go in. I’d like to see again if I could have found a better lane to see the puck. But that’s shoulda, woulda, coulda, you know.”
With 11:57 gone in the second period, the Penguins struck again. This time Holtby had a clear view of the shot as Beau Bennett skated through the defense after a set up from Evgeni Malkin. Bennett fired the puck low blocker side as Holtby tried to come out and cut down the angle.
There’s little Holtby could have done to prevent Sidney Crosby’s goal on the power play, which was the result of a perfect tic-tac-toe passing sequence, or James Neal’s shot off the rush that made it 4-0 in the third period. But by then the Penguins were firmly in control of the contest. Those goals were added cushion to their lead.
“It’s a challenge. I know how skilled they are. They’re at the top of the league for a number of years now,” Holtby said. “Based off tonight we know we have some work to do in order to rebound our next game against them, especially, and against our next game in general. It’s a team. I think we feel we have the players in here that are capable of beating them. It’s just a matter of putting together a 60-minute game where we’re all on the same page and doing things we need to do to win.”