Rapid Rewind: Reality Check. Capitals 1, Senators 3

WHOOPS! (USA Today)

The Washington Capitals lost for the first time in the month of April on Thursday night in Ottawa, falling 3-1 at the hands of the Senators at Scotiabank Place.  DC didn’t seem to have their legs from the start, being outmaneuvered and outbattled along the boards and in open ice against a team still missing their two best players in Jason Spezza and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.  Ottawa took the lead in the first period on a soft goal against by Braden Holtby and though Mike Ribeiro tied the game later with his 13th, another misplay by Holtby gave the Sens the lead off the stick of Cory Conacher.  The Sens would seal the deal with an empty-netter late in the third.  The loss drops Washington to 24-18-2, two points up on the Jets for the Southeast Division lead and two points clear of the eighth spot that would mean they make the playoffs regardless of if they win their Division.

Braden Holtby was good for most of this game, with the exception being the very soft goal he gave up to Kyle Turris and his glaringly poor clear pass that led to a Cory Conacher marker (each following a stretch of very nice saves, I must add).  As has become a regular occurrence during this charge by the Capitals up the standings of late, Holtby made saves continuously that thwarted Ottawa chances and kept the Capitals in the game (for the most part).  I’ve said it before and I will say it again: this is his net, despite the obvious talent of Michal Neuvirth.  He’ll get another chance to try and carry the club to glory come playoff time.  He’s the man.

Martin Erat is nice.  This trade is nowhere near decided in terms of “who wins,” but Erat has played very well when he has been able to dress for this club, both in terms of appearing on the score sheet and playing well when he does not appear on the score sheet.  He is a top-six winger who is playing like one with some good fellow forwards and will help the Capitals’ offense in their drive for the playoffs and what they do in the dance.  But there is no doubt that he will help them “win now.”

The team was bound for a “stinker.”  They weren’t going to win out and they were due to lose a game after winning eight games in a row.  They didn’t have their usual fire or aggressiveness in any aspect of the game and, as has been custom recently, relied on Holtby to keep them in the game on the defensive end.  When the goaltending started to struggle and not make every save, they lost the game.  It was rather predictable and though that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic, it just means that you should have seen this coming a bit.

One thing that should cause panic: Nicklas Backstrom left the game midway through the third period after being hit by a Mike Green shot in the arm and did not return, the team classifying his ailment as an “upper-body” injury.  Backstrom is the Capitals’ best all-around forward and their best center, and his absence will throw off the lines and hurt the entire lineup from top to bottom in a way that the absences of Brooks Laich and Joel Ward do not.  Get well soon, Nicky, the Capitals doing anything of significance this year hinges on your health.

Washington is next in action on Saturday night in Montreal.

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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