Early in his first start in nearly a week, Braden Holtby looked out of sorts. Routine saves yielded juicy rebounds, his motions lacked the usual control and he misplayed the puck when he ventured out of the crease.
“I don’t know if that had anything to do with not playing, but I felt a little out of control – a little erratic at times,” said Holtby, who lost sight of the puck a few times early on, resulting in frantic searches to find it again. At one point he spun around 360 degrees in the crease to try to locate the puck.
“You just have to realize what’s happening and find a way to change the way you’re doing things. It wasn’t a matter of mental stuff. It was just technical,” Holtby said. “I was being too aggressive on stuff. It’s just little things – little changes that will benefit.”
After the Hurricanes’ aggressive start that saw them outshoot the home team, 14-0, and take a one-goal lead in the first 10 minutes, Holtby settled down.
Holtby displayed the poise that made him the Capitals’ top option in net the rest of the contest and bailed his teammates out more than a few times en route to a 3-1 win over Carolina. He finished with 43 saves, a career high in the regular season.
“That’s Holts,” defenseman Mike Green said. “The more shots he gets, the better he is and the bigger the game the better he plays. He’s been outstanding.”
It was a considerable workload for Holtby, though, and Carolina wasn’t without plenty of quality scoring opportunities. He thwarted Jordan Staal with a sliding pad stop late in the second period, turned aside a snap shot off a faceoff by Jiri Tlusty in the third and regardless of how quickly Carolina fired shots his way, he reacted smoothly.
“Maybe [we gave up] too many chances to make it look easy I guess,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “He made some huge saves in the second period, he had a real big pad save back door on Staal, a few more solid saves at the end of the game, scrambles around our net. You can’t say enough about him.”