Two nights after being pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby returned between the pipes in Game Three.
Beyond a poor 48-second stretch late in the the third period, Holtby was sensational, stopping 28 of 30 shots. He’s 12-2 after games in which he’s pulled.
After the game, Holtby credited his “sports psych guy.”
“We just got back to basics, simplified things,” Holtby said in an interview with CBC’s Christine Simpson. “I talked to my sports psych guy back in Edmonton and talked things through. We got back to the basics. Focused on what got us here and our team was prepared.”
“I just simplified things and got back to a mental base. It’s what got us here,” Holtby said. “We broke things back down to the basics. He basically said, ‘the puck doesn’t know it’s a big game.’ Just do what you do.”
Holtby, who entered the 2017 postseason with the best save percentage of all time, has been more Holtkay than Holtbeast through the Caps’ first nine games of the playoffs.
Holtby gave up four goals in three consecutive games in the Caps’ first round series against Toronto Maple Leafs. After losing Game One to the Penguins, Holtby reached his low point was when he was benched after giving up three goals on 14 shots in Game Two. Holtby was shown by cameras, stewing on the bench.
But the Caps netminder was steady and calm in Game Three, even making a spectacular catching glove save while seated on his rear.
The only bad stretch came when the Penguins scored twice to tie the game with under three minutes left in the third period.
The first goal came off the stick of Evgeni Malkin who hammered a one-time slap shot from the right circle past Holtby. The Caps, who were sagging defensively, gave Malkin all the time and space he needed to blast the puck home.
On the very next shift, Justin Shultz scored to tie the game.
“Obviously it was tough,” Holtby said. “We played a strong game. Obviously it didn’t go how we wanted at the end. There were a couple miscalls and such and we battled through it.”
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