Eight minutes into the third period, the Washington Capitals clung to a 2-1 lead, buoyed by Andre Burakovsky’s two goals. After falling behind 1-0, the Caps rebounded and seemed in control.
Then, the nightmare scenario: Carl Hagelin raced in on a breakaway towards Braden Holtby after a Caps’ miscommunication in the neutral zone. Mike Green, realizing this could be a disaster, chose the two-minute minor hooking penalty over the layup goal. Green reached his stick out and tugged on Hagelin’s gut.
Green did not get the two-minute minor. Instead referees called a penalty shot. It was the biggest play of the game.
Hagelin skated in and deked to his backhand. Holtby went to the full splits.
The puck flew into Holtby’s glove like a freshly picked apple lofted gently into a basket.
The sassy goaltender tossed the puck to center ice.
“He flicked it out like it was a Sunday drive,” Mike Milbury said after the game.
Green’s reaction on the bench said it all.
When asked if he was surprised that Holtby made the save, Hagelin responded, “Yeah. I mean you go in there thinking you’re going to score. I wanted to fake a shot and put it on my backhand. He was in the splits there and made a good save.”
In the playoffs, Holtby is almost unbeatable. His .950 save percentage is highest among all remaining goalies in the postseason. And all goalies in the postseason ever who played at least eight games.
The Capitals are just one win away from advancing to the third round for the first time since 1998.
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