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Stanley Cup Final | Golden Knights vs. Capitals

Stanley Cup Final

Holtby stirs memories of Dryden with stunning save for Capitals in Game 2

Stop against Golden Knights reminiscent of Hall of Famer's heroics in 1971 Cup Final

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The next three, four or five games between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will put the save in perspective.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby's robbery of Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch with 1:59 remaining in the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday might prove to be the stop that changed the momentum of a series and propelled the Capitals toward their first championship.

Or history might remember it merely as a spectacular save that was a speed bump on the Golden Knights' road to the title.

 

[RELATED: Holtby save draws raves from Capitals after Game 2 win | Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Regardless of its context and its weight, it will and should be replayed from now until probably the end of hockey.

Holtby's save preserved a 3-2 lead the Capitals would hold to the end, tying the best-of-7 series 1-1 and sending it to Capital One Arena for Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Former Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig tweeted, "Greatest save I've ever seen!"

Washington forward T.J. Oshie suggested in a grand understatement that Holtby's heroics would be "in the mix" of an NHL Network top 10 list.

"I was dog tired on the bench when it happened, so I wasn't even able to yell," Oshie said. "I slapped my stick as hard as I could. It was outstanding."

Capitals forward Jay Beagle called it "the save of the year, maybe the save of a lifetime. [Holtby is] always unreal and he stood on his head again tonight."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm2: Holtby reaches for unreal stick save

Beagle, who was backchecking on the play, had a good view of what was at least a minor miracle.

"I was out there, yelling in his ear," he said of his reaction to Holtby among the gasps at T-Mobile Arena. "He was probably telling me to shut up, but I was so fired up he made that stop."

So much of the narrative of this Stanley Cup Final has centered around Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins who instantly became the face of the Golden Knights when he was their first selection in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21.

If Fleury has been deserving of every good word, Holtby is hardly playing in his shadow.

"I don't pay attention to the media so I don't know if he [Holtby] gets attention or not," Beagle said. "He's our best player game in and game out and we know that in the locker room."

For those of a certain vintage, Holtby's stunning save was a reminder of a breathtaking stop made in Game 7 of the 1971 Stanley Cup Final by Montreal Canadiens rookie goaltender Ken Dryden on Chicago Blackhawks forward Jim Pappin.

In each case, the goalie was protecting a 3-2 lead. Each save came in the last four minutes of the game. If the Canadiens were hoisting the Stanley Cup moments after Dryden's save, Holtby has given the Capitals a head of steam heading home.

Dryden has said his save on Pappin, based on how it came about and with so much on the line, was the greatest single stop of his Hall of Fame career. It was one of 13,166 saves he made, including playoffs, during his eight-season NHL career that saw him win six Stanley Cup titles, the Vezina Trophy five times and the Conn Smythe Trophy and Calder Trophy once each.

"It was 3-2 at the time with about four minutes to play," Dryden said of the save during a discussion several years ago. "Chicago had the puck behind our net and passed it in front. For some reason, [Chicago defenseman] Keith Magnuson was in the slot, which seems odd to me in that he was not an offensive player at all. Why he found himself there, I'm not sure. His shot went right at me, along the ice, and it hit my stick and deflected out to my right.

Video: 1971 Cup Final, Gm 7: Dryden wins Conn Smythe

"Literally between the moment he took the shot and the moment I stopped it, I knew I'd have to make the save and already be moving to stop the rebound. Usually they're separate and discreet, but this was one movement, where the first part of the save was blocking Magnuson's shot and the second part was throwing out my right leg for what I knew had to come next.

"The puck deflected out to Jim Pappin, but I was already in the process of moving to stop his shot before he had taken it. He shot it into my leg.

"What I remember, vividly, was the strangled sound, first of 'Yeah ...' and seeing his arms start to go up in the air -- and then his arms and voice stop.

"It seems to me there was some moment [later] that Jim and I were together, with someone else, and he made a passing comment like: 'I've had to talk about that shot and that save all my life.' And he laughed."

Tuch didn't have time to celebrate anything Wednesday, his shot stopped by Holtby's blocker and the paddle of his stick, but maybe somewhere down the road, the two will be at a memorabilia show, autographing a photo of their shared moment.

For now, goalie, frustrated shooter and their teams move on. We'll soon see whether the save was just a clock's tick in time, or something that changed the tide of a series.

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