Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.
But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.
“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”
“That one’s on me, and it’s one of those ones I’ll make up for in the future,” he added.
Two minutes and 45 seconds after the Islanders second goal, Anders Lee deflected a shot from the point. Washington’s lead was gone. Holtby’s historic achievement, at least on this night, was headed in the same direction.
“A couple good tips, a couple good plays and they are right back in the game,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said.
Despite Holtby’s mistake, the Capitals had a myriad of chances to give him a bigger cushion, but missed breakaways, ill-advised and errant pucks prevented the Caps from putting a larger number on the scoreboard.
“It’s just kind of about Holts right now for us,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t deliver for him tonight.”
In overtime, Braden’s three man defense crumbled around him. Dmitry Orlov smashed his stick in the boards in disgust. The Islanders had clawed their way back, clinching a playoff spot in the process. They flew off the bench in jubilation.
“This is how it’s going to go,” Schmidt said. “Team’s aren’t going to give you games, especially right now and in the playoffs.”
Now, Holtby has likely has two more chances to get a record breaking two wins. It would cap off a brilliant, Vezina-caliber season for a goalie related to third-string duty just three seasons ago.
“No matter what happens, his name is going to be up with a lot of Hall of Fame goaltenders,” head coach Barry Trotz said.
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