TAMPA, Fla. | Braden Holtby had an interesting night at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The 22-year-old Washington Capitals goaltender finished with 27 saves on 30 shots and his third straight victory.
But those numbers fail to tell the story. Holtby was a rock for the Caps most of the night, keeping them in it with one 10-bell save after another.
“I thought he was solid,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He made some big saves when we needed him to, he made it able for us to get a lead and keep a lead. He had another strong game.”
There was the stone-cold glove-hand robbery of Marty St. Louis and the sliding pad save on Steven Stamkos. And then another one on Stamkos. And Cory Conacher moving toward the net from between the circles.
“That’s what we’ve needed,” Holtby said. “I haven’t been coming up with those as much as I should be. It’s my job to make those saves. It’s my contribution to a win.”
The third period wasn’t exactly a positive contribution. Teddy Purcell’s goal to make it 4-2 came from a bad angle and went under Holtby’s left pad. And then there was Nate Thompson’s breakaway, when Holtby came out of his net trying to poke-check the puck away.
Thompson was able to avoid that and slide it into an empty net.
“I just made a bad decision,” Holtby said. “Luckily it didn’t cost us, luckily we battled back but that can’t happen.”
Despite such a strong two-and-a-half periods, Holtby seemed bothered by that bad decision. But he explained what he saw on the play.
“When [Thompson] kind of lost the puck there in front of him, it’s a hard play if you just stay patient there,” Holtby said. “He doesn’t have control of the puck [so] because he can make a quick move or shoot it, it’s hard that way. Once I saw him lose it, I thought I’d be able to get out there and get it before he did, but I read it wrong and that’s a bad mistake.”
His coach offered a brief but accurate assessment of Holtby’s night.
“Other than maybe the gamble on the breakaway I thought Holts played great,” Adam Oates said.
The Caps play just one game in the next six days (seriously). So expect Braden Holtby to start Sunday evening at the New York Rangers.