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Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.

But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.

“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”

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clutterbuck

Photo: Bruce Bennett

Cal Clutterbuck, who has fantastic facial hair and the best hockey name of all-time, is beginning early his trash talk for the Capitals, one of his favorite adversaries. When asked by the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis if he would put this team with the NHL’s elite, Clutterbuck started playing mind games.

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wilson-celebration

Tom Wilson has played in 224 career NHL games. He has never scored a game-winning goal.

Monday night at Verizon Center, that changed due to some hard work and good luck. 3:46 into the third period, the fourth line forced a turnover in the defensive zone. Daniel Winnik put a shot on net. Wilson and Mike Richards crashed the net. As Richards drew a Blue Jacket’s attention in the crease, Wilson, wide open, backhanded the rebound past Sergei Bobrovski as he fell to his knees.

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holtby-bored

Braden Holtby inched closer to history tonight. After making 22 saves against the Devils, Holtby earned his third shutout and 45th victory of the season. The 1-0 win brings the Holtbeast three victories away from tying Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for most wins in a season (48 in 2006-07).

But if you were expecting the zen Holtby to dance a jig or pop some bottles, you’d be mistaken.

The dude looked straight bored tonight.

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kuznetsov-pass

The Caps leading point-producer, Evgeny Kuznetsov, had another one of those nights. The 23-year-old Chelyabinsk native was magical with the puck, tallying his fourth three-assist game and his eighth three-point game of the season.

Kuznetsov used an unreal slap pass to Daniel Winnik to help the former Leaf tally his first goal with the Capitals. Later in the second period, Kuzy did The Kuzy Pass From The Kuzy Spot, leading to a TJ Oshie goal. Finally, early in the third period, Kuznetsov showed his poise, gathering in a loose puck near the boards and finding Andre Burakovsky wide open in front of the net.

All three assists were primary assists. And all three passes showed off Kuznetsov’s world-class talent. Just don’t tell that to him.

“It’s lucky play again,” Kuznetsov sheepishly said of his twisting, against-the-grain pass to Oshie.

“That’s just luck?” a reporter asked.

“Yeah, of course,” Kuznetsov replied.

Kuznetsov’s teammates were a bit less timid.

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holtby-pass

When Daniel Winnik got traded to the Washington Capitals late last month, we figured the grinding forward would get an offensive boost playing with DC’s high end talent. We just didn’t realize how easy they would make it for him.

With the Capitals trailing 1-0, Winnik jumped on the ice in the waning seconds of a Capitals power play. Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, however, weren’t quite done with their work on the man-advantage. Despite the seconds ticking down, Holtby fed Kuznetsov puck the puck in the Capitals’ zone off off a brilliant, high-flying breakout pass that easily found the Russian forward.

“That’s something we try to do in the past, usually at the end of the power play when you’re not worried about changing or anything like that,” Holtby said of the play. “You’re trying to get it into their zone at the end of the power play. You know Kuzy’s gonna make those reads. He read it well.”

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barry-trotz

Photo: Bruce Bennett

Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Evgeny Kuznetsov made some nice sauce, registering his league-leading 37th primary assist of the season on Alex Ovechkin’s OTGWG. The point was Kuznetsov’s 70th on the year, making him the 12th player in Caps history to register 20 goals and 50 assists in a season. Kuznetsov’s 70 points also leads the Capitals.

If the Chelyabinsk native ends the year on top, he would be the first Capital not named Ovechkin or Backstrom to lead the team in scoring since 2003-04 when Robert Lang put up 70 points. Kuznetsov’s dominant play this season is a far cry from his initial struggles during parts of his first two seasons in the league.

Earlier this week, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz spoke to Igor Rabiner of Sports-Express about Kuznetsov’s growth as a player, and he revealed his master plan for turning Kuzy into the next Pavel Datsyuk.

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carrick-laich

At the trade deadline, the Capitals flipped Brooks Laich and Connor Carrick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Daniel Winnik. Despite all of the difficult emotions that come with being traded by your first-place, long-time team, Brooks Laich has received a more prominent role on the rebuilding club. It has also given borderline prospect Connor Carrick the opportunity of a lifetime: to be a full-time NHL player. It appears he’s seizing it.

Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carrick scored his first NHL goal in two-and-a-half years, and second in his career, slamming a one-timer past goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

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braden-holtby-wins-record

Photo: Patrick McDermott

Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Braden Holtby captured another franchise record. With his 42nd win of the season, Holtby passed Olie Kolzig for most wins by a Caps goaltender in a single season. It’s also Holtby’s career high.

During an interview with Al Koken after the game, Holtby was not impressed.

“It’s kind of cool,” Holtby said of the record. “At the same time, it shows just how good of a team we have this year. It’s all just stats right now. We’re trying to accomplish a big goal here.”

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andy-tongren-caps-rmnb

Friday night, the Capitals lost to the Rangers 3-2. I mostly abandoned GIF’ing, but for good reason. Andy Tongren, the lead singer of the Young Rising Sons, came to my house to watch the game. Yes, a legit rock star came to my house to play with my ferrets, play fetch with my kitten, and watch the Caps.

The Young Rising Sons are signed to Interscope Records and currently recording their first full album. They’ve released two (very good) EP’s, which you can buy on iTunes here and here. You’ve likely even heard their monster single “High” before, which is catchy af.

Andy and drummer Steve Patrick play hockey (even with me outside the 9:30 Club) and are huge Caps fans. Steve is the nephew of Capitals president Dick Patrick.

I interviewed Andy in my basement during the game. We talked about touring, Justin Bieber, the Caps obviously, and the Man V.

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