NEW YORK | What a Madison Square Garden debut for Braden Holtby.
The 22-year-old who just a few weeks ago was playing for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League beat possible Vezina Trophy-winner Henrik Lundqvist Sunday as the Washington Capitals finished the regular season by thumping the New York Rangers 4-1.
It was just his seventh appearance of the season, but Holtby turned in a gem with 35 saves in yet another pressure situation. Sure it helped that the Caps staked him to a 1-0 lead before he even saw a shot, and a two-goal advantage just 2:18 in, but Holtby made some clutch stops to make sure this wouldn’t be another rough night of blown leads.
Seemingly whenever a defenseman was undressed in front of him, like when Marian Gaborik turned Dmitry Orlov into a pylon, Holtby was there with a poised save. Flashing his blocker, he brushed off the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Never was he more brash and on his game than in the third period on a couple of Rangers breakaways. First, he stopped Carl Hagelin at a time when New York could have made things interesting. Then, with Brandon Prust sliding up the ice, Holtby raced out of his crease to poke check the puck away.
Holtby got by with a little help from his friends, Alexander Semin backchecking and Dennis Wideman covering the net for a second chance. But the young goalie was getting the bounces Saturday night because he deserved them.