NEW YORK — Washington Capitals Coach Barry Trotz was very clear about his reasoning for pulling goaltender Braden Holtby midway through the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night. Trotz repeatedly said it had nothing to do with Holtby’s performance and everything to do with the rest of the team “leaving him out to dry.”
But Trotz nearly yanked Holtby for a second straight game after he coughed up three goals against the New York Rangers in the first period of Sunday’s game. This time, it was performance related. But Trotz trusted the player he’s repeatedly called the team’s MVP to this point, and Holtby didn’t allow another goal for the last 40 minutes of Washington’s 7-3 victory.
“I thought Holts had a bit of a shaky first [period],” Trotz said. “I said to him, ‘You’re a little close to being yanked.’ What I loved about it was, I let him stay in there and what I think great goalies are, they find ways to get their game back together. He did, and I thought he was really solid after the first. …
“I have a lot of faith in him. When he is not on, I probably let him go a little longer. He seems to sort things out. I allow him to sort that out. I said, ‘Hey, we need a stop from you in the second period,’ and the leash was going to be a little shorter. He just pulled it together, and I thought he was real strong.”
It’s fitting that on a night when Holtby was not at his best, his teammates came through for him with an offensive outburst. Too often in this Capitals’ hot streak, it’d be the other way around, as Holtby would have no room for error because he was having to make up for a scoring drought or mistakes Washington was making in front of him.
Holtby was especially disappointed with the third goal he gave up: He said the one-timer from defenseman Dan Boyle on the power play with less than two minutes left in the first period was one that he’d like to have back.
“I definitely owe them one in the future, that’s for sure,” Holtby said of his teammates.
“It’s a good two-way street,” forward Justin Williams said. “He bails us out when we have a turnover or when we’re not playing our game. He can throw up 40 saves and steal the game for us. On the other end of the spectrum, he can look at us and say, ‘Boys, you know what, I’m not my greatest, but I know we can get a win,’ and we can get a win for him. It’s a two-way street and faith runs both ways.”
After giving up three goals on 15 shots, Holtby finished the game with 29 saves. It was New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who was eventually pulled early, replaced by a rookie backup in the third period.
“That’s what a good goalie he is; he bounced back,” forward Marcus Johansson said of Holtby. “He didn’t play bad in the first period. I think they had some good goals and not much he can do on a couple of them. He came back and shut the door. He gave us a chance to come back and win the game.”