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Braden Holtby can only do so much as Capitals squander lead against Jets

Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby for the decisive goal in overtime.
Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby for the decisive goal in overtime. (Trevor Hagan/AP)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — From the overhead camera angle, it looked like Mark Scheifele’s shot went through Braden Holtby, the goaltender falling forward onto his stomach in agony as the puck appeared from in between his legs and hit the back of the net. There were 14.4 seconds left in the third period, and that goal erased what had once been the Washington Capitals’ two-goal cushion, forcing overtime. As the Capitals and Winnipeg Jets waited for the extra frame to start, opposing fans cheered “Holt-by.”

As Washington returned to a losing locker room after Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers scored the game-winning goal for a 4-3 Jets win, the Capitals lamented the seconds preceding Scheifele’s equalizer, a power play that went wrong and the vicious slash that led to that man-advantage. No matter how the game unraveled for Washington, squandering a 3-1 lead with less than 13 minutes left in the game for a second straight loss left the team with yet another bitter, disappointed feeling.

The Capitals continue to lead the Metropolitan Division, but they are now 4-3-3 in their last 10 games.

“It’s really just a mentality,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “There’s no X’s and O’s, I don’t think, that’s going to save it. When you go onto the ice in the last couple of minutes with a lead, your mentality has to be, ‘No matter what, they’re not getting a scoring chance,’ or, ‘No matter what, this puck is getting out,’ or, ‘This guy is not beating me in this battle.’ Hard lesson we learned tonight.”

With Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck on the bench in the last two minutes of regulation, Washington had an opportunity to seal the result when Jay Beagle and Oshie had a two-on-one on an open net. But Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien slashed Beagle on the ribs, impeding the pass from Beagle to Oshie for a likely empty-net goal. Byfuglien was penalized, and Beagle hobbled to the bench in distress. Coach Barry Trotz said he didn’t have an update on Beagle’s health yet immediately after the game.

“The second slash on Beagle, that was not a hockey play,” Trotz said. “There was no intention of getting the puck or trying to get the puck. He was already by him. At that point, we probably should’ve put it in an empty net.”

Washington got a power play with 1:17 left, but it couldn’t maintain possession of the puck. Nicklas Backstrom had a giveaway in the defensive zone, and then he blocked Blake Wheeler’s shot. But Scheifele scored on the rebound to tie the game.

“I thought in this building — this is a pretty hostile building — for 54 minutes we played a pretty good road game,” Trotz said.

“A 3-1 lead and then a one-goal lead with 1:17, the power play, it doesn’t matter what happened in the game before that,” Holtby said. “We have a couple opportunities to put it in the empty net and just move it around the power play to kill the time. We got a little arrogant, I guess, and tried to make fancy plays. It burned us. We deserve that.”

Inside the mind of the Capitals’ Brett Connolly, a selective sharpshooter in a patient offense

It was Holtby’s voice that had confronted the Capitals during their last game. He is typically a reserved locker room leader, respected as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, so often covering for his teammates’ mistakes. But after being peppered with puck after puck, abandoned in net against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period Sunday, Holtby had reason to be upset, and he was the critical, vocal one at intermission. Washington had managed just two shots on goal as the Red Wings scored three goals in the period. The result was an eventual overtime loss, same as Tuesday.

Just two days after Detroit’s target practice, Holtby was once again sprawling all over his blue crease to stop waves of prime Winnipeg scoring chances. Washington led 2-1 at second intermission after goals from Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky, but the Winnipeg barrage was fiercest in the third period, when the Capitals were outshot 15-4. After Washington extended its lead to two goals with a snipe from John Carlson, Holtby allowed one goal to Bryan Little and got lucky with one puck hitting the post. He finished with 40 saves and still lost.

“In terms of the [defensive] zone, we’re a little too backed off sometimes,” Carlson said. “We’re kind of in follow-mode versus attack-mode. It’s tough. We’re giving teams a lot of time in the zone. When you do that, you try to at least keep them to the outside and not give them the middle of the ice, if you’re going to be doing that. We haven’t done really either of those, so that’s why it hasn’t been great.”

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