Three things we learned in the NHL: Holtby bounces back in big way

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby praises teammate T.J. Oshie for his play and screen in overtime that helped Kevin Shattenkirk get the winner.

• All is well with Braden Holtby
Sidney Crosby injury remains a mystery
Kevin Shattenkirk reminds everyone why Capitals traded for him

Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals may have only been one game on the schedule, but Monday night still provided plenty of storylines in the NHL.

Just over five minutes in, Sidney Crosby was knocked out the game after taking a cross-check to the head from Capitals defenceman Matt Niskanen. What followed was an adrenaline-filled goaltenders duel that, of course, had to end in overtime.

Here are three things we learned.

Braden Holtby rebounds after being pulled in Game 2

Playoff teams live and die by their goaltending and after Braden Holtby was pulled in Game 2, it looked like the Capitals were on shaky ground in net.

But if they had any fears, Holtby crushed them in Game 3, making 28 saves and coming within two minutes of a shutout.

This should come as no surprise though. As Christine Simpson pointed out on the Sportsnet broadcast, Holtby has always played well coming back from being pulled.

In the first two games of the series, Holtby posted a .829 save percentage, a far cry from the .925 he posted in the regular season. Game 3’s performance didn’t improve on his numbers too much thanks to two late goals by the Penguins, but he definitely looked like his old self in this game.

During the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada, former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey said he thought Holtby looked a lot more confident in the crease. While that’s one piece of the puzzle, it doesn’t hurt to get a little lucky either.

It’s a good thing for Washington that Holtby stood on his head because the guy at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury, did the same. While he eventually took the loss, Fleury continued his stellar play with 33 more saves. He now has a .933 save percentage, which is tied for third best among goalies still active in the playoffs.

And he made what just might be the save of the year late in the second period.

This series was billed as one where the titans of the NHL would face off in a good old fashioned shootout. But after Game 3, the story now clearly is the stars keeping the goals out.

After the game, Holtby spoke with Simpson. You can watch the full interview at the top of this page.


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Sidney Crosby leaves game after scary hit

What could become the turning point of this series happened less than six minutes into Game 3 and even after the game ended, the ramifications are still very much unclear.

Niskanen’s hit on Crosby was the spark under the flame in this game. Crosby left the game with what may or may not be a concussion and Niskanen was given five-and-a-game, but the players left on the ice seemed to be on more of an edge for the rest of the night.

In the first intermission, the Hockey Night in Canada panel broke down the hit and what it means for both teams moving forward.

It’s clear the Penguins missed Crosby, especially in the third period when their offence completely stalled. The Penguins only had six shots in the third despite chasing a Capitals lead the whole time. In the end, they only scored after pulling Fleury for the extra attacker.

After the game, the locker rooms played host to a debate over the legality of the Niskanen hit. The Penguins didn’t have an update on his status but almost everyone had an opinion on the play. And the NHL hasn’t said yet whether Niskanen will face any further discipline.

Here are just a few of the quotes that came from both sides.

The Penguins will likely have an update on Crosby’s status on Tuesday. Whether he plays or not in Game 4, which goes Wednesday, there’s no doubt that this play will have a lasting effect on this series.

Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce has more on what Crosby’s injury means to this series in his post-game column.

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Kevin Shattenkirk finally gets a goal

The Capitals acquired Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline and at the time the move was widely praised for being the one that would bring the Cup to D.C. But so far in the playoffs Shattenkirk has been almost a non-factor with no goals, three assists and a minus-7 rating heading into Game 3.

Well his luck may be changing.

Shattenkirk’s shot from the point only three minutes into overtime gave Washington a much needed win over the Penguins. And may have given him a much needed confidence boost.

“It feels like there’s a little bit of weight off my shoulders,” Shattenkirk told Christine Simpson after the game. “But I know I’m not done, I need to make this a consistent effort.”

The Capitals have a well-rounded defence corps with John Carlson, Niskanen and Nate Schmidt all capable of generating offence. If this goal is what gets Shattenkirk going, that just adds another weapon to an already strong backend.

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