Motivated Braden Holtby helps Capitals hold off elimination

— -- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Mitch Korn had a long chat with Braden Holtby on Saturday ahead of Game 5.

It had to do with the idea of trusting the game.

"Just with the way the games have been going in this series, just the weird bounces, sometimes it feels the game is against you," Holtby said Saturday night after a season-saving Game 5 win for the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins. "It's just focusing on making sure you have to play the percentages, play your game and control the controllable is what you want to do.

"Let everything else that's outside of you [to] control, let it all go.''

Holtby's chat with his goalie coach paid dividends. The Holtby we've come to expect was at his best Saturday night, his 30-save performance included a number of breathtaking gems, the one on Justin Schultz in the second period absolutely the save of the series. It prevented the Penguins from cutting into a 3-1 Caps lead and giving themselves life before the third period.

"That's why he's the best goalie in the league," said captain Alex Ovechkin. "We knew it's out there and he's going to make a save and he's going to keep us in the game. It's kind of a situation when we need him and he need[ed] us. We believe in each other and we trust each other. ...

"He did a great job keeping us in the game, keep[ing] the two-goal lead. That's huge."

Rewind three nights ago to when Patric Hornqvist beat Holtby in overtime to end Game 4. The Caps netminder was visibly upset as he left the ice.

Right then and there, you had a feeling the Vezina Trophy finalist was going to come back in Game 5 with a motivated response.

"Yeah, I wasn't happy with the way I played that overtime goal," Holtby said. "One thing I've worked a lot on is getting rid of that cheat in some areas. I was expecting him to go high glove where most guys would, but you can't do that. You have to make sure you take away all the areas. So I was a bit frustrated with that. I came back, took a couple of days to kind of zone in on what we've been working on here. And try to do a better job.''

The long discussion with Korn on Saturday was timely.

It's why while head coach Barry Trotz also talks to his goalie once in a while, he leaves the heavy lifting to Korn, who was also with Trotz with the Nashville Predators and did tremendous work with Pekka Rinne.

"For me handling Braden, I leave it up to Mitch, that's his area," said Trotz after his team's 3-1 win. "But for me, it's just telling Braden: 'You're a good goaltender. Just be yourself. Just look forward.' And I think Mitch does a really good job of handling goaltenders. I use the term 'connect the dots.' He connects the dots for a goaltender athletically and the technical part, but also life skills that go along with being a pro hockey player. Goaltending is truly a pressure position, you're the last line of defense. He's been able to manage that, helping him through those peaks and valleys of a young, talented goaltender, which Braden is.''

The spotlight in this series through games had been on 21-year-old rookie Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who was getting more attention than the Vezina Trophy finalist who tied Martin Brodeur's NHL record for wins this season.

"And I think he's fine with that and I think we're fine with that too," said Caps blue-liner Karl Alzner. "Keep as much pressure off of him and our team as possible and you have to talk about what he's been doing over there he's been playing great. So, it's fine, we'll keep it that way."

Well, in Game 5, Holtby stole the goaltending spotlight.

"It was huge," Trotz said of his goalie's second-period gems. "We've been on the other end of that in this series, it seems, Murray's been really good. I thought Holts responded really well.''

This was the matchup the Caps seemingly had a big edge in before this series. On Saturday night, it finally showed itself.

"He's a good goalie," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. "I thought he made some real timely saves for them, especially in the second period. We had a couple of Grade A chances that we didn't finish on. Our guy is doing the same thing. I don't think teams make it this far without that. Both goalies I think have been really good. They make timely saves. They give their team a chance to win."

It's what Washington needed Saturday night to stay alive. And it's what they're going to need for two more games if they want to pull off a memorable series comeback.