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How Holtby turned in biggest performance in biggest moment

How Holtby turned in biggest performance in biggest moment

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.”

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.