Braden Holtby returns Carl Hagelin in Game 5 in the second half for one of his 36 saves on Saturday. (John McDonnell / The Washington Post)
The outbreak came afterward, a release that rocked Capital One Center with more than 100 decibels, followed by "Let's Go Caps!" – Chants that might have shaken dishes at Penn Commons or Daikaya and blown up wine glasses. The game-winning goal came when Jakub Vrana, the post-war Breakout star of the Washington Capitals, buried a puck on Matt Murray and unleashed a pandemonium. What happened before the big noise was a familiar noise: the dull vulcanized rubber from Braden Holtby's brake pads.
Everything that happened on Saturday night, like almost everything in this series, could be traced back to Holtby. The Washington Capitals travel to Pittsburgh for Game 6 in a second round crusade with a 3-2 lead over the penguins. There are many explanations. The clearest reason why the capitals have a victory from the ascent and not a loss from ruin is the soft-spoken, bearded goalkeeper who started these playoffs on the bench.
Holtby scored 36 saves in the capital's 6: 3 victory. The biggest came when he stank Brian Dumoulin's backhand just under five minutes before the abyss, which led directly to a quick back and forth and the game-winning goal. Holtby had kept the capitals single-handed during the second period, when the penguins controlled the game but came out with only one lead. One night, when Vrana hit the game winner and added two assists, Holtby was the first star and nobody would argue.
"He was fantastic," said coach Barry Trotz. "For me, the backbone of your team is the goalkeeper, and if you do not have your best stuff, as we did not in the second, it was huge for us." He kept the game within reach, it did not escape. " Holtby's excellence in this round against this opponent could be one of the most significant developments in the Alex Ovechkin era. When the penguins ousted the capitals last year, the capitals believed the penguins ruled because Marc-Andre outsmarted Fleury Holtby. This year, the capitals lead the series because Holtby was better than Murray. The capitals need yet another victory, but Holtby may be the most important gearwheel in Washington, passing for the first time in two decades to the Conference finals.
"The goalkeeper is everything for us," said Evgeny Kuznetsov, captain of the capital. "We just have to give it the lead, see the puck, it's sure to stop every puck."
Holtby's team-mates will carry as much confidence in Pittsburgh as he did in the third half. Vrana's goal triggered a wild celebration, the culmination of a breathtaking ice noise by Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
But first, go back to the other end of the ice.
"I think you have to look Holts first," TJ told Oshie. "Usually it always starts with Holts, and that's what it did for the game winner and pretty much throughout the game for us tonight."
With less than five minutes remaining and the score at 3, Ryan Sheahan rolled around the right corner in the capital zone. Washington's defense left Dumoulin behind, in the middle of the ice at close range. Sheahan gave him a pass on the tape.
Dumoulin moved to his backhand and fired a shot from left to right. Holtby slid on his knees and became a wall blocking the puck and executing a challenging parade, taking into account both the apparent threat of Sheahan and Dumoulin's sudden danger.
"Many of these games have to do with your timing," said Holtby. "Try and keep enough momentum to push back the other way, and also stay square enough when shooting the puck, just try to be patient, fortunately I've read the game correctly."
After the puck bounced off Holtby's pads, Kuznetsov shot down the ice and fed Ovechkin, who carried it deep into the penguins' zone and found Vrana, who dropped off the game winner. 19659015] For the capitals to have a chance at this game, they needed Holtby's heroic second half-time period. He made 18 of Playoff High 36 saves in the second as the penguins dominated. Coach Mike Sullivan would say the show was "maybe our best game in the series". That the penguins have lost anyway is a direct reflection from Holtby.
The significant comparison for Game 6 is how thoroughly Holtby plays off his opponent. Where pucks bounced off Murray, Holtby sucked off possible rebounds. When the Capitals started testing Murray in the third test, it felt like he was there for the recording. When the penguins bombarded Holtby, it felt like he was becoming impenetrable. At the height of the game he was.
Immediately thereafter, Holtby identified another rescue than his most important one: his very first night. Sidney Crosby set off and fired a shot, and Holtby grabbed his glove behind him and grabbed him, keeping the game close to goalless.
"One of those desperate parades," Holtby said. Obviously, you'll be hit at the first shot, you want to come with a rescue as you can. "
The penguins had flown out on Washington's Hausis, and the rescue left Holtby to regroup. "At this point, you really need to simplify, really simplify your game," said Holtby. "One salvation at a time, one time."
In the end, Holtby had a moment to enjoy. Amid the cheers and joy and two empty gates that turned Capital One Center into a party, another song broke out. It echoed through the building, perhaps loud enough to carry you deep into spring. The Red Clan fans chanted again and again: "Holt-by! Holt-by."
Read more about the capitals :
& # 39; Another game! & # 39 ;: Caps Fans win at the National Portrait Gallery
Washington wins, 6-3, and caps have two chances to win series
As of last week: Speedy Jakub Vrana could be the X-factor of capitals