If the Capitals do go on to win the first Stanley Cup in team history, there will be a wing in the museum dedicated to one particular Braden Holtby save in Game 2
The Washington netminder watched a puck trick across the crease from behind the net, but the Golden Knights picked it up and nearly tied the game. Cody Eakin dished across the slot to a wide-open Alex Tuch, who could not elevate the puck over a sprawling Holtby.
There was still 1:59 left in the third period, but the Capitals felt that was the game in their 3-2 win at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.
“To me, it was the hockey gods,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “Once he made that save I knew we were going to win the game.”
Holtby was exactly what the Capitals needed after Monday’s 6-4 loss, making 37 saves Wednesday in the first Final victory in team history. It’s also what they’re going to need going back home for Game 3 on Saturday with the series even at one win apiece.
Holtby was perhaps the biggest reason the Capitals overcame a 3-games-to-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay. He pitched back-to-back shutouts in Games 6 and 7, and carried a shutout streak of 164 minutes, 28 seconds from Game 5 of that series into Game 1 against the Knights.
After allowing five goals on 33 shots in Monday’s loss, any shakiness was gone Wednesday, punctuated by a save that took the breath away from 18,702 in attendance and made social media lose its collective mind.
“We’ve been getting huge plays from different guys throughout the playoffs and it’s one of those things that helped us win a game and we move forward to the next game,” Holtby said. “Because we’ve got a goal in mind that’s a lot bigger than some save on social media.”
James Neal scored for Vegas in the first period on a snipe to the corner, and Shea Theodore took advantage of a screen in the third, but other than that Holtby was lights-out. After a consecutive Capitals penalties but the Knights on a 5-on-3 power play in the third period, Holtby stood tall, and made five saves in 23 second span that started on that kill.
“We didn’t play our best game, but we had 39 shots and we should have created a lot more,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was one of those games where Holtby played real well, and he was probably the difference in the hockey game.”