In the second period of the Capitals’ 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night, Braden Holtby decided to stand his ground and take his protection into his own hands.
With 6:42 remaining in the period, Washington defenseman Jack Hillen was doing as much as he could to slow veteran forward Travis Moen but the Canadiens winger drove toward the crease with a full head of steam.
On the previous shift, Brendan Gallagher had come into contact with Holtby, so when the goaltender saw Moen speeding toward the crease, he wasn’t having it. Holtby stood and shoved Moen with his stick and blocker, sending a clear message that he won’t let an opponent take liberties against him.
“I was just protecting myself. Right before that Gallagher kind of ran me a bit and there was no call,” Holtby said. “Guys driving to the net like that, I’m going to take my safety into my own hands.”
Holtby has never been one to be pushed around by an opponent. The 23-year-old goaltender’s fiery personality has come out multiple times over the course of his professional career when foes try to knock literally knock him off his game.
He won’t hesitate to defend himself but in doing so in each of the past two games, Holtby has picked his spots. Early in the second period at Ottawa on Thursday, Erik Condra knocked over Holtby and the goaltender immediately jumped on top of the guilty forward. Condra received a minor penalty for goaltender interference, but no such penalty was called against the Canadiens.
After consecutive games of opponents intentionally coming into contact with him in the crease, it’s understandable that Holtby decided to send a message when Moen tried it again.
“You can tell,” Holtby said of how he gauges a situation for intent and the need to stand his ground. “A guy driving wide like that has no play toward the net to score. It’s a stupid play in hockey because it’s never a penalty, because they say the D-man pushed him in and the D-man has no choice no matter what. It’s one of those that you’re left to defend yourself and that’s the way it is.”