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Skills Competition

Capitals' Holtby scores goal in Skills Competition

All-Star goaltender records feat in event loss

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

NASHVILLE -- Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby grew up watching a generation of NHL goaltenders who were phenomenal stick-handlers. 

The list includes: Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Marty Turco.

"Those guys, that was part of the game then," Holtby said after helping the Eastern Conference to a 29-12 win against the Western Conference in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Stars Challenge at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. "I grew up being a forward and a goalie, so that kind of helped. But there's still some pretty good guys in the NHL. When we play against [Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop], that's one thing we really have to key in on, because he's so good at it. It helps if you do it right." 

Holtby was smooth during the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay. As soon as Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux completed the stick-handling portion, Holtby collected one of the group of pucks on the left side of his net and sent a shot the length of the ice for a goal. 

The Western Conference won the event 2-1, but Holtby certainly did his part to help the East's cause, even if there were some jitters. 

Video: NHL Skills: West wins Challenge Relay in second heat

"I was a little nervous," Holtby said. "I was really nervous going in because I didn't know how it would be. I just grabbed the pucks and shot them. Muscled them maybe, I guess." 

Holtby has helped Washington (35-8-4) to the best record in the NHL through the first half of the season. After playing 73 games last season (and 13 more in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs), he has already played 39 games this season. He is 30-5-3 with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. 

One thing Holtby hasn't done at any level is score a goal. He hit the post once late in a game while playing for Hershey in the American Hockey League, the closest he's ever come to scoring a goal. 

Holtby would love to score one day, but he's much more concerned with the Capitals' success. 

"I used to try all the time," Holtby said. "Now a win is worth too much in the NHL. A goalie goal isn't as worth as much as a win." 

The timed relay event involved 14 skaters and two goalies from each team and consisted of four relays with five challenges each: One Timers, with three shooters and one passer per team; Passing, with one passer per team; Puck Control, with one skater per team; Stick-Handling, with one skater per team; and Goalie Goals, with one goalie per team. 

The Western group of Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, Nashville Predators forward James Neal, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin and Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk finished with the best time of 1:27.687. 

Each skill had to be completed before moving on to the next challenge with the exception of one timers, passing and goalie goals in which a maximum of 45 seconds was allocated. The goal was to finish all five challenges faster than the opponent.

Three points were available. The team with the fastest time in each heat scored one point; the fastest overall time scored one bonus point. 

In the first heat, the East defeated the West by a time of 1:38.410 to 2:15.371. The East group consisted of Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk, Giroux and Holtby. 

The West countered with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry, Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.  

When the skills competition was over, Holtby said he learned a valuable lesson. 

"I knew Dylan Larkin can fly, but not that fast," Holtby said of the Detroit Red Wings forward, who won the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater event by finishing his lap in 13.172 seconds, supplanting Mike Gartner's record.

"Scary. I've got to be ready for a few breakaways from him in the future because I don't think he's going away anytime soon. That's scary speed." 

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