- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2018

Braden Holtby lifted his goalie mask, poured water into his mouth and shook his head from side-to-side as he slammed the bottle back into its holder. The Capitals goaltender wasn’t pleased about giving up his third goal in a 2:56 span, and fourth of the game.

Moments later, the second period buzzer sounded and the Capitals, down three goals, were booed as they skated off the ice.

When Holtby returned to the locker room during the second intermission of Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, coach Barry Trotz said Holtby had some words for his teammates.

“He was upset and rightfully so,” Trotz said. “We left him to dry.”

Down 4-1, the Capitals erased a three-goal deficit in the third period — only to lose in overtime. Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar beat Holtby on a 2-on-1 breakaway to score the winning goal.

The Capitals could have looked at Sunday’s effort in one of two ways: They either were relieved they climbed out of such a hole in 20 minutes and still managed to earn a point in the standings, or they could be upset they allowed the second period to happen in the first place.

They chose the latter.

“We got a point we didn’t deserve,” Trotz said. “We took a period off.”

“We’ve got to look for consistency here,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That’s what’s going to make us successful here in the future.”

Second periods have been a major problem for the Capitals all season, but Washington’s struggles went beyond having to deal with a longer change between shifts. Against the Red Wings, the Capitals were careless. They turned the puck over and spent far too much time in the defensive zone.

Detroit outshot the Capitals 17-2 in the second, and Trotz remarked the 4-1 hole could have been worse if it weren’t for Holtby.

The Capitals’ woes in the second also centered around the fact they weren’t shooting the puck enough.

This season, the Capitals have stressed quality over quantity when it comes to shot attempts. That approach can lead to moments where Washington doesn’t generate enough offensive chances to be successful.

“Sometimes you’ve definitely got to throw it (on the net),” forward Brett Connolly said. “You’ve got to definitely throw it there if there’s bodies and stuff. You look up at the clock and we have 10 shots after two periods. Goalies are too good in this league to only have that many.”

Trotz defended his philosophy, saying they had to make better decisions against the Red Wings. If they had, he said, the shot attempts could have been higher. He said just shooting toward the net, the chances of scoring are “very slim.”

“There’s times where we can shoot some more,” Trotz said. “There are times where we hold on to the puck too long. But we’ve got to work for quality. If we work for quality, we’ll get more chances.”

Still, the Capitals weren’t pleased with their second period, in which Detroit took a 3-1 lead in a span of nine seconds. Tatar added another goal with 10 seconds left in the period.

Connolly said Washington’s performance in the third can be what happens when they’re “pissed off,” adding the period was their best of the year. The Capitals forward sniped one past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard to make it 4-2.

After defenseman Dmitry Orlov cut the lead to one with five minutes left, Washington spent the remaining time pressed in their offensive zone. With 2:11 left, the Capitals pulled Holtby and managed to draw a penalty — giving them a 6-on-4 advantage.

Backstrom fired a wrist shot and scored with 16.7 left, tying the game for overtime.

The Capitals’ mindset in the third showed how successful they can be when taking the majority of the games’ shots. They outshot Detroit 15-5 in the period.

But Washington’s effort wasn’t consistent enough. After Detroit’s win, the Capitals lead the Metropolitan Division by just four points over the surging Pittsburgh Penguins. They also now face a three-game road trip ahead of them, starting Tuesday in Winnipeg.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be happy tonight going to sleep,” Connolly said.

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