Despite recent struggles, Braden Holtby ‘stepped up’ in Game 5 to help keep Capitals alive

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After four games of this series against the Penguins, there was plenty of blame to go around the Capitals as they faced the growing possibility of another early playoff exit.

Head coach Barry Trotz had, after a disappointing Game 4 loss, taken his stars to task. The Capitals, Trotz argued, needed more from many in their lineup, including their top players.

They needed more offensive production from some of their depth players. They needed more from goalie Braden Holtby.

After a .925 save percentage in the regular season and subsequent status as a Vezina Trophy finalist, and with a career save percentage of .933 in 56 playoff games, Holtby had struggled in this series. Through four games, he had posted a save percentage of .867 and had been pulled in Game 2.

Meanwhile, the guy at the other end of the rink, Marc-Andre Fleury, placed on the bench a year ago in favor of Matt Murray and had trade rumors circulating around him during this regular season, had been the better of the two goalies and was sensational in a Game 4 win in which Washington held a huge advantage in shots on goal and puck possession.

The Penguins tested Holtby only 10 times through two periods Saturday. They had beaten him twice, taking the lead on a Phil Kessel power play goal and putting Washington 20 minutes away from elimination. But Holtby didn’t allow anything the rest of the night, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the third period.

That was crucial because his teammates in front of him were able to solve Fleury for a trio of goals in just under five minutes and the Capitals were able to hold on from there.

“I thought [Holtby] really stepped it up. We got a lot of energy from those saves that he made,” Trotz told reporters. “In the third, they had a push when we got up a couple there and I thought he was huge.”