Mikhail Grabovski's game-tying goal
Every Caps fan knows Braden Holtby’s pregame routine. It involves eye exercises and a conversation with himself from the bench hours before the puck drops. It’s Holtby’s unusual way to prepare and he takes it very seriously.
So when the 24-year-old netminder was thrust into net 30 minutes before the Caps’ 3-2 shootout win over Canadiens game on Friday, he had to get ready much faster than he prefers. Expected starter Michael Neuvirth went down in pregame warmups after stepping on a puck and suffering a lower body injury, making Holtby’s night off not meant to be.
Holtby was in the Caps’ locker room while his teammates were on the ice, ready to take the bench, when he got the call.
“I was the last guy to go on the ice,” he said. “I didn’t really know what was going on.”
Holtby figured it out quickly. He was named the game’s First Star after posting 35 saves with five of them in overtime. He redeemed himself after losing three consecutive games, including a five-goal disaster against Ottawa on Wednesday.
Coach Adam Oates was planning to sit Holtby against Montreal to think about the mistakes he made against Ottawa, but this gave him an opportunity to turn the page a night early.
Holtby made the most of it.
“A goalie’s performance goes with the team’s performance,” he said. “That’s the reason I’m standing here with a happy face on this time and not a sad one. We played a lot better, including myself and that’s just the way it goes.”
Oates was happy for Holtby, but the NHL Hall of Famer wasn’t ready to overwhelm him with credit. He wants his young goaltender to be ready for these instances anyways, he did what he was supposed to do.
“That’s what a pro does, that’s part of it. That’s great for him and I’m glad he got the win. You expect that from the guy,” Oates said. “That’s why we talk all the time about being pros because anything can happen. Five seconds into warmups and he’s out. That’s why you prepare yourself and you’re ready to play.”
Oates’ main point was that the team can’t celebrate the win very long, and neither can Holtby. They pick right up against the Islanders the next night and Holtby will have to be available again.
“He played great,” Oates said. “No matter what happens, we enjoy it, but we gotta play tomorrow. We have to be ready.”