- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2019

Before Monday’s game, Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden called the Colorado Avalanche “a very dangerous team.” But he couldn’t have imagined how quickly the game would get out of hand.

The Avalanche scored three goals on their first three shots, prompting Washington to pull Braden Holtby out eight minutes into the game, and Colorado went on to serve the Capitals a 6-3 drubbing.

In relief of Holtby, 22-year-old Ilya Samsonov made his first regular season appearance at Capital One Arena and made 19 saves but allowed two goals, including a power-play goal.

Washington nearly put together a late comeback, with Alex Ovechkin rifling in his fifth goal of the season late in the third period to make it 5-3 and John Carlson nearly adding a top-shelf goal 15 seconds later. The shot in question went in, but the Avalanche successfully challenged that T.J. Oshie skated offsides in the leadup to the play.

The Capitals fell to 3-2-2 while the Avalanche remained perfect at 5-0-0. Lars Eller and Oshie scored for Washington.

Holtby entered Monday with an .868 save percentage. By his failing to make a save on three shots, that percentage sank to .846.

“It’s unacceptable on my half and the last few games here, I feel like I’ve put a lot of that weight on my shoulders and it’s something I really need to get better at,” Holtby said. “Because we fought hard and I just need to be better.”

While Holtby took the blame, Reirden emphasized his disappointment with the team as a whole.

“Our players are accountable to themselves, to one another,” Reirden said. “That’s good that (Holtby) said that and I’m sure there were some things that he would like to have done different, but there were some things that a lot of us would like to have done different. We’re in this together.”

Colorado’s first two goals were scored by defensemen. Erik Johnson fired the opening goal from just in front of the blue line, with former Capital Andre Burakovsky screening Holtby. When Carlson lost possession of the puck at Washington’s blue line a few minutes later, the Avalanche scored in transition by setting up Nikita Zadorov to spin through the slot and score.

Once Nazem Kadri made it 3-0 just 7:54 into the period, Holtby’s day was done — marking the shortest outing of his career.

“I just gotta find a way. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it doesn’t,” Holtby said. “You just gotta find a way to help the team win. Tonight I didn’t do that and it’s on me to make sure I improve that. It’s frustrating. You just gotta go back to work, work even harder and find a way back into that mindset that success comes from.”

Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal on Samsonov before the game’s 10-minute mark to help Colorado pour it on, but the Capitals came out playing much more physically in the second period and mounted the beginnings of a comeback.

Several minutes into the second, Ovechkin made a quick-instinct play to set up Washington’s first goal. He got his stick in front of an Avalanche D-zone pass, and Eller collected the puck and skated in on Grubauer for the goal.

Oshie cut it to 4-2 with a backhand goal before the middle frame was out. Colorado’s defenders lost track of Oshie as the Capitals set up in their zone, and Dmitry Orlov fed him in front of the net.

“How I said after first (period) to the boys, ‘Forget about it and move on,’” Ovechkin said. “I think the guys respond with almost coming back.”

In the third, Samsonov went behind the net to collect a puck, not knowing that Colorado center Tyson Jost was sprinting into the area. Samsonov turned it over, Jost’s pass to the net squirted through his legs and Matt Nieto dove to punch it in.

Despite that miscue, Reirden implied that the Russian, who entered this season as Washington’s top minor-league prospect, was beginning to make Holtby’s seat warm.

“(Samsonov is) doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and that’s to make it like a decision every night of who’s going to be considered to play that game,” Reirden said. “He’s been solid in his showings and we’ll continue to evaluate appropriately for what gives our team the best chance to have success.”

After a hectic final few minutes, Nathan MacKinnon added Colorado’s sixth goal on an empty net.

Capitals defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler left the game after star Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon collided into him, but Reirden said he entered concussion protocol and was cleared.

The Capitals have two more games in their current homestand, Wednesday against the Maple Leafs and Friday against the Rangers.

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