Capitals notes: Marcus Johansson returns, receives coach’s praise

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Marcus Johansson was more than ready to return after missing 12 games with a concussion. “I’ve been waiting a long time to get back out and play again,” he said.

Johansson would have liked his return to come in a victory instead of a 4-1 Washington Capitals loss to the New York Rangers, but his play Sunday drew rave reviews from coach Adam Oates.

“I thought he was one of our best players,” Oates said. “That looked like maybe that hit in training camp really did affect him because that looked like what I saw on tape.”

Johansson collided with captain Alex Ovechkin during a training camp scrimmage Jan. 15. The 22-year-old forward said recently the hit had nothing to do with his injury, though he also wouldn’t say when the concussion symptoms began.

But Johansson wasn’t himself in his first nine games: one goal, no assists and a minus-7 rating. In his first game since Feb. 7, he assisted on defenseman Steve Oleksy’s goal and played well enough to earn a midgame promotion to the first line.

“I think that’s how it played out,” Johansson said. “Obviously, just happy to be out there and play again. Try to help the team win.”

Johansson wasn’t able to do that, but he showed flashes of speed that mitigated at least one memorable turnover. Being healthy also could help Johansson round his game into form.

“I felt good,” he said. “This is the best I’ve felt all year, so it was nice to be out there again.”

Holtby pulled

Braden Holtby was pulled Sunday after the starting goaltender allowed three goals on 19 shots.

The first banked in off Holtby’s right skate, while the 23-year-old didn’t see the second one. It would have been hard for anyone to stop the third one, a snipe by Rick Nash that went in off Ryan Callahan’s leg.

Oates said he yanked Holtby in favor of Michal Neuvirth “mostly to stop momentum.” Holtby slammed his stick after he came off the ice.

“My mindset is I want to finish every game,” 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.”

Oates faulted Holtby for the second goal and called the first “a bit of bad luck.”

Asked about his game, Holtby said: “It has to be better, simple as that. That’s all I can really say.”

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