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Braden Holtby of Capitals moving on to Game 5

Goaltender hoping bounces go his way against Maple Leafs on Friday

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals didn't practice on Thursday to give their players some rest after they flew home following a 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Air Canada Center on Wednesday.

A handful of players decided to go on the ice at Kettler Capital Iceplex anyway to prepare for Game 5 at Verizon Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC). The first one on was goaltender Braden Holtby, who got in some extra work with goalie coach Mitch Korn while defenseman Taylor Chorney fired pucks at him.

"He's a guy that wants to work and do stuff," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Thursday. "He asked if he could come out and do some stuff just to keep his body [ready]. He's one of those guys that a body in motion stays in motion."

Holtby has been in motion a lot during the first four games of the best-of-7 series, which is tied 2-2. The moment that stands out came in Game 3, when he raced out near the blue line to knock the puck away from Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner and prevent a breakaway. Unfortunately for Holtby, he's been caught moving one way while the puck has bounced the other on multiple occasions.

That was the case on all four goals he allowed in Game 4. Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a likely finalist this season, was also the victim of odd bounces on two goals in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3. Auston Matthews scored when the puck deflected off Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt's face and Nazem Kadri's goal banked in off the backside of Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik.

"He's playing fine," Trotz said. "It's just not very predictable right now because there is stuff that is bouncing all over. It's a pinball machine out there a little bit."

Holtby, who said he was fine after being accidentally run over by teammate Marcus Johansson during the morning skate Wednesday, appeared to be fighting the puck at times during the first two periods. In the first, Tom Wilson dove to knock a puck away from the goal line and save a goal after a shot by Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly trickled through Holtby.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm4: Wilson lays out to save a goal

The Maple Leafs had a 5-on-3 power play to start the third period, and that turned out to be Holtby's finest moment of the game and perhaps the series so far. He made five saves during the two-man advantage to keep the Capitals ahead 4-2.

"We got a couple of bad bounces to get scored on and then there's a time in the game where you need to step up," Holtby said Wednesday. "The penalty kill and the goaltender need to step up in that moment."

Holtby was under siege for almost the entire third period, with the Maple Leafs outshooting the Capitals 19-3. The Capitals managed to hold on for the win, but it was the third consecutive game that Holtby allowed four goals, which is unfamiliar territory for the 27-year-old Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, native.

During a regular season when Holtby led the NHL with nine shutouts, tied for the League lead with 42 wins, ranked second with a 2.07 goals-against average and was fourth with a .925 save percentage, he allowed four or more goals nine times in 63 starts. It happened in consecutive starts twice, but never in three in a row.

Before the past three games, Holtby's .938 career save percentage ranked first in Stanley Cup Playoff history among goalies with at least 30 appearances, and his 1.87 GAA ranked fourth. In the past three games, he's allowed 12 goals on 113 shots for a .897 save percentage and 3.37 GAA.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm4: Holtby denies Nylander and van Riemsdyk

"It's hard to gauge it because they've had a lot of strange stuff," Trotz said. "During the year, goalies, they do everything on predictability and there are a lot of things that aren't very predictable right now and that's what at times makes Braden look like he's not there. But it's bouncing off four different guys, so he's moving to the puck."

When a team plays well within its defensive structure, it makes it easier for the goaltender to read where shots will come from. With the Capitals scrambling in their own end during much of this series, some of the plays that led to goals have been anything but predictable.

"There's some I've played that you can't really do anything about," Holtby said. "There's some I'd like to change a little bit; trying to overcompensate almost for bad bounces at times, the screens and traffic and interference in front. So it's just one of times you've got to battle, look at video a little more than usual to see certain ways to fight through that."

Trotz sounded confident that Holtby will be able to do that.

"He's a tough goaltender," Trotz said. "One thing I know about Braden is that he's got some good Saskatchewan blood in him. He's hard-nosed and he fights through that. I'm not worried about him at all."

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