With the Caps facing elimination Saturday night, Braden Holtby turned in arguably his best performance of the second round, lifting his team to a 3-1 victory over the Penguins.
Holtby’s performance was strong from start to finish but it was underscored by a clutch three-save flurry in a span of about a minute late in the second period.
Evgeni Malkin. Patric Hornqvist. Justin Schultz. Each had a point blank opportunity to put the Pens back in the game. Each got turned away by Holtby, who received standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Verizon Center and then was serenaded with a hearty “Holtby! Holtby!” chant.
“It was huge,” Coach Barry Trotz said of the pivotal sequence of stops. “We’ve been on the other end of that in this series, it seems. [Penguins goalie Matt] Murray has been really good, and I though Holts responded really well. Great save with 3:36 left in the period.”
Added Holtby: “It’s my job to do that. It was nice to get some chances that didn’t bounce off something. Nice to have that.”
The Vezina Trophy candidate stopped all 19 shots he saw in the final 40 minutes and, along the way, rebounded mentally from a Game 4 effort performance that he considered to be substandard.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I played that overtime goal,” Holtby said, referring to Hornqvist’s game clincher Wednesday night. “One thing I’ve worked a lot on is getting rid of that cheat in some areas. I was expecting him to go high glove where most guys would, but you can’t do that. You have to make sure you take away all the areas. So I was a bit frustrated with that. I came back, took a couple of days to kind of zone in on what we’ve been working on here. And try to do a better job.”
As pleased as Holtby was with his performance, he was equally proud of the way his team clamped down on the Pens in the final minutes. In fact, the visitors did not record a shot on net over the final 2:42, despite having an extra attacker for much of that time.
“We just have to stick with our plan and I thought we did a good job with that, especially in the last five minutes of the third period,” he said. “We didn’t get rattled, we weren’t running around, we just stuck to it.”