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Holtby Handles Canes, Shuts Out Division Leaders With Steady Glove
Nicklas Backstrom scores on Cam Ward to start things off on the right foot (All Photos Credit: M. Richter).
Hail to Holtby – the Verizon Centre crowd certainly did, as the clock wound down on the netminder’s second shutout of the season and the arena echoed with “Holt-by, Holt-by!” The 3-0 victory over the visiting Hurricanes was accompanied by loud and proud enthusiasm from puck drop to final horn, in a surprisingly strong show of support for a Tuesday night.
In response to the enthusiasm, the Caps played one of their most solid games to date – most notably in the first and second periods. Everyone hustled, clearing pucks and chasing dump-ins while peppering opposing goaltender Cam Ward with a season-high 40 shots.
Game-Time Decision Nicklas Backstrom started the scoring off with a first period power play goal (assists Ribeiro and Ovechkin). John Erskine increased the lead 29 seconds into the middle frame (Backstrom, Carlson), and then John Carlson sealed the deal just over midway through the third period (Perrault, Joel Ward).
And then we come to what was the big, dramatic story of the night before the puck ever dropped – the return of Alexander Semin. We’ve talked before about the problems the Capitals faced in replacing the UFA sniper. While the Caps have struggled to find their groove this season, Sasha has slotted into the Carolina lineup with surprising success. His numbers aren’t quite what they were in the young guns era, but the opportunity to turn over a new leaf appears to have made a world of difference for him. While absent from the goal tally, Semin had a team-high four shots on goal for the Canes.
This victory marks the Capitals second consecutive home win, and coincidentally featured standout performances from both recent contract-extension recipients. Braden Holtby had the above-mentioned shutout, holding the line even when the Canes rallied in the third period. Defenseman John Erskine scored the game’s insurance goal, and he also drew a very lucrative penalty and logged the third highest ice time on the Caps bench.
The Caps are on the road tomorrow, visiting Philly before making the trek up to Winnipeg on Saturday.