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Golden Knights get key contribution from ‘goofy’ Nick Holden

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Nick Holden arrived at Friday’s virtual news conference wearing a T-shirt that was perfectly on brand for the fun-loving defenseman.

Even Golden Knights teammate Alec Martinez, who also was part of the video call, couldn’t resist giving Holden a hard time about it.

“He said it was fun (Thursday) night,” Martinez said. “I think it’s only fitting that he’s wearing a Disney Goofy shirt right now in a press conference. Nice.”

The popular, always smiling Holden was inserted into the lineup for Game 3 and played a significant role in the victory that gave the Knights a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven West Division first-round playoff series.

He picked up the primary assists on the tying and go-ahead goals in the second period, much to the delight of the locker room.

“To be able to get up for that game was real easy,” Holden said. “For me, it was fun to be able to get back out there and compete and battle with everybody at this time of year. Obviously the way the game played out, it’s nice to be able to contribute offensively as well.”

Holden, 34, spent much of the regular season on the taxi squad after he cleared waivers during training camp and was a victim of the Knights’ salary cap crunch largely because of his $1.7 million hit.

He saw action in 17 games during the regular season and hadn’t played since April 9 against Arizona before replacing rookie Nic Hague in the lineup Thursday.

“He truly is a consummate professional,” Martinez said. “There’s a lot of guys that I’ve played with in my career that wouldn’t have handled it the way that he did.”

Coach Pete DeBoer said Hague looked fatigued after Game 2 and wanted to keep Holden sharp in case he’s needed deeper in the postseason.

It’s not clear whether Holden will remain in the lineup Saturday for Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center.

“I just thought it was a good opportunity to put Nick in, and he deserved to go in,” DeBoer said. “He did exactly what we thought he’d do. He came in and played physical, defended hard. Made a couple great offensive plays. He’s a good teammate. The guys really pull for him, and they were excited to see him in there.”

Holden skated on the third pair with Zach Whitecloud and logged 13:02 of ice time in the 5-2 win. His most noticeable moment came in the final five minutes of the second period when he set up Patrick Brown’s tying goal.

William Carrier dug the puck out of the corner and sent a cross-ice pass to Holden at the left point. With Wild forward Nick Bonino closing him out, Holden instead fired the puck off the end boards hoping it would carom toward the front of the net and create chaos.

His plan worked, as the puck bounced over the stick of Minnesota goalie Cam Talbot and went to Brown, who was stationed at the top of the crease and backhanded in the equalizer.

“If I shot that puck 100 times again, I’m sure that bounces over his stick and everything wouldn’t have happened the same way,” Holden said. “I was aiming wide and it just happened that it bounced perfectly right to (Brown), and he did a great job getting it up and over Talbot there.”

Holden also factored into Reilly Smith’s goal late in the second that proved to be the game-winner when he jumped into the play and sent a bouncing puck on net. Talbot couldn’t glove the fluttering shot, and Smith was there to clean up the rebound.

The two assists matched Holden’s output during the regular season. He credited the Knights’ coaches and training staff for keeping him ready and emphasized on more than one occasion he feels good about his game right now.

“He contributed all over the ice,” Martinez said. “It’s something that we all know he can do and to get an opportunity like this to do it in the playoffs and come up big and contribute that way is just a testament to him and his character and really his hard work and mental fortitude to stay strong during this and put himself in the best possible position that he can to perform well in the playoffs.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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