WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Coming into the season, one of the many questions hanging over the Washington Capitals was the gamble of going with a goaltending battery comprised of 24-year old Michal Neuvirth and 23-year old Braden Holtby. Early results seemed to indicate that the gamble wasn’t paying off and led to rumours of the Caps granting Roberto Luongo’s wishes for a move away from Vancouver.
However over the past couple of weeks, following a rallying call from general manager George McPhee, Braden Holtby has begun to show the kind of performances that saw him start all fourteen of the Capitals’ playoff games last season, despite spending the majority of the regular season plying his trade for their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears.
That upturn in performance continued Saturday afternoon with Holtby turning aside all 35 shots sent his way by the hometown Winnipeg Jets. It was the second time in as many games that Holtby had held a divisional rival scoreless and, just like their game at home to Carolina last Tuesday, the Capitals where able to post three goals to claim their eighth win of the season and move to within striking distance of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
Following a scoreless first period, which saw Holtby much the busier of the two goalies making fifteen saves, Washington were able to break the deadlock midway through the second thanks to Matt Hendricks celebrating his promotion to the top line with his fourth goal of the season. However the afternoon’s game didn’t solely belong to the Capitals goaltender, his opposite number was showing flashes of brilliance in front of his own cage.
Washington’s Jason Chimera is still waiting for his first goal of the season and could’ve been forgiven for thinking he had it; shortly before Hendricks gave the Caps the lead, only for Ondrej Pavelec to add his contribution for save of the season to deny Chimera a much needed opening goal.
Into the third period, and despite more pressure from the Jets, Washington was able to add two goals in under a minute to gain control of the game. Troy Brouwer added his ninth of the season before evergreen Mike Ribeiro converted a rebound, from Alex Ovechkin’s shot, past Pavelec to make it 3-0.
Winnipeg again upped the pressure but Mark Stuarts double minor with just over five minutes left put pay to any hopes the sell out MTS Centre crowd had of seeing a home win and grant the Capitals their third win in their last four games.
Washington now head back to DC and will await the visit of the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.