Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby’s odd NHL debut

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is an icon throughout town but nine years ago, not many had heard of him.

Braden Holtby, in fact, was sitting on the bench and had no idea he was going to be going into the Washington Capitals contest against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 5, 2010. The Capitals leading 3-0 made the odds all the more slim.

All three goals came in the second period to give the Capitals that cushion entering the third. After Tomas Fleischmann won the face-off, Tyler Sloan slapped home a one-timer from downtown 59 seconds into the second.

The Capitals doubled their lead thanks to a Mike Green snapshot right in front of the net at 7:35. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were credited with the assists. The Bruins went on the power play attack after Ovechkin was called for slashing at 16:52. Momentum change? Not quite.

The Capitals added a goal shorthaded on a 3-on-1 rush and Green fed Alexander Semin a quick pass for a charging one-timer right on the bottom left corner at 17:50. 3-0 Washington heading into the final period.

Again… Holtby wasn’t even in the game. He was on the bench watching his team dominate on home ice. Michal Neuvirth was in between the pipes and had a good game. Then he allowed three unanswered goals in the span of 6:44. Two came on the power play from Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton while the tying goal was scored by Shawn Thornton at 9:51.

Then-head coach Bruce Boudreau knew he had to take Neuvirth out of there and give Holtby, a rookie at the time, a chance to shine. Holtby appeared in relief for the remainder of the third and made four saves in the last 10:09.

The Capitals regained the lead for good at 13:25 with a John Carlson blast off a face-off draw. Eric Fehr and Boyd Gordon had the helpers. Ovechkin sealed the game with an empty net goal to give the Capitals a 5-3 win.

Reflecting back on that night, Holtby told Brian McNally of NBC Sports Washington back in November:

“I was definitely nervous when I went in that first time against Boston. A lot of guys get their first NHL minutes in that situation, but the game usually isn’t close. That was the unique thing about it. It wasn’t 4-0 or something, and you’re just killing the clock out.”

A unique debut for a unique goaltender that us fans are lucky to have in Washington. The rest, as they say was history. Holtby has since become the main man in net for the Capitals and added a Vezina Trophy and a Stanley Cup to his resume thanks in part to the biggest save of his life. Now he embarks on the final year of his contract.

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