Braden Holtby’s penalty shot save on Steve Bernier was a substantial, momentum-building moment in the Washington Capitals’ 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. But coach Adam Oates didn’t think, at least initially, that it should’ve been a penalty shot.
Caps defenseman Tom Poti hooked Bernier as the Devils forward broke in behind him and on Holtby. It was ruled a penalty shot right away.
“You know what, it’s funny because you think you know a lot of the rules,” Oates said. “I thought it was originally based on the rule that it doesn’t matter where the infraction occurs. But I thought Bernier got control of the puck again. And that he lost it. So it’s like what if Bernier goes in and shoots the puck, do they still get a penalty shot after that? So I talked to George [McPhee] and George said, ‘Yeah, that’s a penalty shot.’ ”
Oates wondered if because Bernier was able to recover the puck, it should’ve switched to a two-minute minor instead. The end result was Holtby making the save instead of 1:09 of the Caps being down five-on-three.
An argument could be made that trusting Holtby to make one save is easier than taxing penalty killers with that much time short-handed.
“That’s a tough one,” Oates said. “You really don’t want to give away a penalty shot.”
But Holtby handled it fine.
“I just approach it like another shot: Try and be as patient as you can,” the 23-year-old goaltender said. “It’s actually easier, probably, than a breakaway, in most circumstances. Just try and be patient.”
Holtby’s pad save brought loud cheers at Verizon Center and chants of his name. But he wasn’t quite sure himself at first.
“It kind of stopped dead on my pad so I thought it might of snuck through,” Holtby said. “I had to look around but fortunately it didn’t go in.”
The Devils eventually tied the score, but there was little Holtby could do on Ilya Kovalchuk’s goal late in the period. But teammates praised the young goalie for coming up big in a big spot on the penalty shot and making 20 more saves in the win.
“He was, again, just a stud tonight,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He started out real, real solid, saved that penalty shot, a couple of big saves at key times, and that’s what we need out of him. We need him to make sure he can keep us in games so that when we get into those third periods where we need wins we can do what we did tonight.”