When the Capitals and Penguins met for the first time on Feb. 3, Coach Adam Oates opted not to pull his starting goaltender. Oates left Braden Holtby in net to absorb the full 6-3 loss on Super Bowl Sunday, explaining afterward that, “He’s earned the right to stay in there and fight through this, and hopefully, we’ll rally and get some goals back for him.”
Thursday night in Washington’s 5-2 loss to the Penguins, however, Oates had a quick hook for starter Michal Neuvirth.
After a perfectly-placed power play goal by Evgeni Malkin and a soft, five-hole goal by Pascal Dupuis gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead 12 minutes and 49 seconds into the second period, Oates had seen enough. The 24-year-old gave up two goals on 11 shots in his seventh start of the season.
“You know what? I thought we were playing really good hockey and I just thought they were goals that kind of deflated us,” Oates said after the game. “In looking at them on the tape, I’m sure definitely one of the goals I’m sure Michal would want back. It kind of hurt us and we’ve been struggling and looking for just a change of momentum.”
Even Pittsburgh’s James Neal was surprised by the switch. “For sure. Those weren’t bad goals by any means,” he said. “Who knows? I know they’ve been struggling all season.”