Twenty years ago, the Washington Capitals made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history after Joe Juneau scored in overtime against Domink Hasek. But the Capitals couldn’t get it done in the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, getting swept in four games as the Detroit Red Wings repeated as champions.
Two decades later, the Caps are back in the championship round, and they’ve already made franchise history. After falling 6-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game One, the Capitals held on to win Game Two 3-2.
Braden Holtby’s brilliant stick save on Alex Tuch pushed the Caps over the finish line. The victory gave the Caps its first Cup Final win ever.
With two minutes and four seconds remaining in the third period, Shea Theodore gained the red line and dumped the puck in. The puck took a crazy bounce off the corner boards and slid through the Capitals’ goal crease right to Cody Eakin.
Braden Holtby, however, was ready to save the day. Eakin sent a quick centering pass to Alex Tuch for a one timer.
Holtby put his stick down on the ice.
He made the save!
In real time, it’s hard to fathom how he got his twig down in time.
The Capitals were thoroughly impressed with their furry goaltender after the game.
“It shouldn’t be possible,” Lars Eller said. “It would have been hard to go out having them tie the game on a weird bounce off the end boards that comes out of nowhere that you feel like they didn’t deserve and then the guy gets the empty-netter. Holts comes up big.”
Friend and teammate Jay Beagle called Holtby’s stop the “save of a lifetime.”
TJ Oshie called it “outstanding.”
T.J. Oshie on Holtby's save on Tuch: "I was dog tired on the bench when it happened so I wasn't even really able to yell. I slapped my stick as hard as I could. It was outstanding. I'm sure on NHL [Network], the top 10, you can throw that in the mix."
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 31, 2018
Nicklas Backstrom went through a wave of emotions.
Nicklas Backstrom on Holtby's save on Tuch: "When it bounced right out to them, I was like, 'Oh no.' But then I was like, 'Oh yes.' That was great. I mean, a huge save at the right time. We really needed that one. That was a great save by him."
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 31, 2018
Barry Trotz had confidence that “once [Braden] made that save I knew we were going to win the game.”
“To me, it was the hockey gods. They evened it up from last game,” Trotz said. “They could’ve tied it up but they didn’t. I thought Braden was really good. I just think they played it the right way. Hockey gods always sort of even that out. I always talk about that. It was a great save and honestly there was about 1:59 left. You could see the emotion on our bench.”
The last Capitals goaltender to lead the Caps to the Cup Final, Olie Kolzig, called the stop the “greatest save I’ve ever seen.”
Greatest save I've ever seen!
— OlieKolzig (@OlieKolzig37) May 31, 2018
Holtby did not take any credit for the savie, instead crediting lady luck – just like his head coach.
“Obviously these boards have been really true all the time and somehow it bounced out. Guy made a good play. That’s hockey sometimes,” Holtby said. “A couple breaks didn’t go our way last game with the penalty calls and the open net, you know, that type of thing. If you keep doing the right things, that goes your way. That’s just one of those things, if you keep working hard as a team, those things will go good.”
The save also gave Holtby a reason to explain his nearly invisible footprint online.
“I try to disconnect myself from social media,” Holtby added. “We’re a group trying to win hockey games and whoever has to step up to make plays, we’re all there as a team to support each other. We’ve been getting huge plays from different guys throughout the playoffs. It’s one of those things that helps us win games and move forward to the next game. We have a goal in mind that will be a lot bigger than a save and social media.”
The save was only one of Holtby’s 37 stops on the evening, but it could turn out being a pivotal moment in the series.
Addtional reporting by Chris Gordon.
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