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Holtby's confident play, big saves help Capitals win Game 6

Gets first shutout of postseason facing elimination against Lightning

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby reached out to make the glove save on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat's slap shot seven minutes into the third period on Monday.

It was a critical save at a time when the Lightning were down 1-0 and pushing for an equalizer. But Holtby didn't consider it a dazzling one.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

"I mean, that's one of those that probably looks more difficult than it actually is," Holtby said. "It was just the position, where the puck was. I was just trying to stay in the moment, focus on one puck at a time and made the save on that one."

Holtby had the same calm demeanor after the game that he had during it, when he made 24 saves in a 3-0 win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Capital One Arena. It was Holtby's first shutout of the postseason and fifth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one shy of the Capitals record set by Olaf Kolzig in 2003. 

Game 7 is at Tampa on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS).

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm6: Holtby posts 24-save shutout in Game 6

While Holtby started the postseason on the bench -- backup Philipp Grubauer started Games 1 and 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round -- he has been what the Capitals have needed him to be this postseason. He is 11-6 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.

"I've been here four years and Braden has grown, and Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "You can't go anywhere without goaltending and he's been solid. Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference, and he does."

Devante Smith-Pelly, whose goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead at 10:02 of the third period, said Holtby's shutout came at a perfect time.

"He's been great all year," Smith-Pelly said. "Obviously and up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs and [I'm] really, really happy for him."

Holtby wasn't overly busy in the first two periods (14 saves). The Capitals were physical and dominant against the Lightning, who struggled to create good scoring opportunities. But the Lightning brought more pressure in the third period, and the Capitals, who played more defensively, didn't get their first shot on goal until forward Lars Eller's tip-in at 8:08. 

"I mean, obviously, it's a tough position in this league. But when a goalie plays like that, he just gives everyone in front of him confidence to make plays," Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "You play on your toes instead of your heels. And if you make a mistake he's probably going to bail you out."

Holtby's demeanor doesn't fluctuate much. He's steady. His ability to be the same on the ice has the Capitals one game away from the Stanley Cup Final.

"I mean, that's Holts. He's been like that since Day 1 here," forward Chandler Stephenson said. "We have all the trust in the world [in] him. We know he's going to stop it when we need him to."

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm6: Holtby discusses Game 6 shutout win

 

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