The Caps came into Thursday night's game looking for a rebound effort and they got one thanks to Braden Holtby. The Caps netminder turned away 26 of the 27 shots he faced on the night including 17 in the second period to lead the Caps to the 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think the other night was a pretty good wakeup call for us, and we had a good response," Holtby said.
Just two nights after suffering a 5-0 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, the task appeared just as daunting on Thursday as the Caps hosted the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The difference as head coach Barry Trotz stated after the game, was great goaltending. Thanks to Holtby's effort in net, this time the Caps were up to the challenge.
Despite the 4-1 score, it was not a dominating performance for Washington. Far from it. The team was sloppy with the puck in their own end and at times could not match the speed of Chicago's rush. The result was 19 giveaways by the Caps leading to multiple odd-man rushes and goal-scoring opportunities for the Blackhawks.
"It's usually a strength of ours is not giving up odd-man rushes," Holtby said. "That's one thing we'll have to figure out how to minimize that, but at the same time, Blackhawks are a pretty creative team and pretty fast team that an create those."
Holtby, however, was up to the task.
The key moment came in the second period. With the Caps leading 1-0, Chicago found themselves with three fantastic chances all met by brilliant saves.
"Those guys are champions over there, there's a reason," Trotz said. "They had a real good push on."
Chicago forward Andrew Shaw carried the puck into the offensive zone on a rush and came in close for a wrister that was stopped by Holtby. The rebound bounced right to Marcus Kruger who was alone in the slot, but Holtby recovered quickly and stonewalled him. Before the Caps could clear the zone or catch their breath, Chicago was able to setup one more chance as Shaw found himself alone in the slot, but again Holtby was there to turn it aside and keep the Blackhawks off the board.
Moments later, John Carlson scored to make it 2-0. Holtby may not have been credited with an assist on the goal, but he should have been as it was his stellar work in net that ultimately led to the tally.
As good as he was, Holtby was also fortunate.
On yet another 2-on-1 opportunity for the Blackhawks, Andrew Desjardins had an empty net to shoot at, but he sent the puck underneath the outstretched leg of Holtby and wide of the net.
Chicago had 17 shots on goal in the second period and another ten that were blocked or went wide. Yet, they headed back to the locker room with nothing to show for it, down 2-0.
A Viktor Svedberg tally in the third period prevented Holtby from registering a shutout, but should take nothing away from his effort. On a night when the top line dazzled and T.J. Oshie delighted fans with a goal and an assist - his first two points as a Cap - it was the star in the crease who bested the champs and gave the Caps an opportunity to win.
MORE CAPITALS: Holtby stands tall as Caps top Blackhawks 4-1