If you have not yet seen Braden Holtby’s game-saving save with two minutes left in Washington’s 3-2 Game 2 win, well, first see Alex Ovechkin’s reaction on the bench:
Yeah, that looks about right. Ovie’s benchmates, how were you guys feeling?
“My heart stopped on the bench,” said Andre Burakovsky.
“I was dog-tired on the bench when it happened, so I wasn’t even really able to yell,” said T.J. Oshie. “I slapped my stick as hard as I could.”
OK, watch the save now. From every angle.
The Stanley Cup finals are going back to D.C. all tied up, thanks to an excellent effort from the Capitals’ skaters and in no small part to one bad bounce—puck against boards—being immediately followed up by one excellent bounce—puck against stick.
The Golden Knights were charging at the end of the game, and a dump-in took a bizarre ricochet right to Cody Eakin. Holtby went to his knees—he pretty much had to—and so couldn’t shift over when dropped whacked the puck over to Alex Tuch, staring at so much juicy twine. All Holtby could do was lunge with his upper body and his stick, hold on, and hope for the best. “There’s no way,” Jay Beagle, trailing the play, admitted he was thinking.
“I was like, ‘Oh no,’” Nicklas Backstrom said. “But then I was like, ‘Oh yes!’”
(I really really dig all these quotes because the Capitals were like any fans watching a crucial play: helpless observers.)
Let us take a moment to acknowledge that luck had much to do with this save; that just about any goalie would have done the same, thrust out his stick and prayed; that Tuch wasn’t able to elevate a bouncing puck, which would have made this all moot. But there was skill involved: the reflexes to get there, the strength to stop the puck dead, with no give and no rebound, with what was nearly the shaft of the stick. Add in the situation, and you get a big save—the sort of save that, depending on how this series goes, gets remembered in a city for a century.
And maybe this guy knows a thing or two about playing goalie:
There’s another angle to this too. An incredible play with incredible timing (and not a little luck) to thwart a potential tying goal in the closing moments of a finals game is just what happened two days before, when Brayden McNabb stick-checked Lars Eller out of a gimme. Nothing hurts more than a what-if so clear and regrettable as that or as this, but the what-ifs being evenly distributed through two games should soothe some sleepless nights.
“To me it was the hockey gods,” Barry Trotz said. “They evened it up from last game. Once he made that save, I knew we were going to win the game.”
So we roll on, a best-of-five series now, between two teams that feel evenly matched and seem to bring out the dramatics in each other. And the big moments only get bigger.