He did his best to deny it after the game, but no one needed Saturday night’s 5-0 win over the Florida Panthers more than Braden Holtby.

The 22-year-old goaltender entered the game under the harsh scrutiny of his general manager, coach and increasingly impatient fan base that expected more from Holtby after his inspiring performance in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

After his 27-save shutout, his first of the season and fourth of his NHL career, Holtby was asked if the recent criticism from George McPhee and Adam Oates had sparked his competitive fire.

“Other people saying that doesn’t even come close to the pressure we put on ourselves in this room,” Holtby said.

Which brings us to the closed-door meeting the players conducted prior to Saturday night’s game. The message in that meeting was crystal clear: playing good and losing simply wasn’t good enough. The Caps needed to start doing all the little things that win games.

Like blocking shots, winning faceoffs and clearing opponents from the front of the net.

The Caps did all three on Saturday. Twelve different players blocked shots in front of Holtby, led by three blocks each from John Carlson and Karl Alzner. The Caps won 51 percent of their faceoffs, led by Jay Beagle [4-for-6]. And there was hardly a shot Holtby had to crane his neck to see.

“The traffic in front of the net was non-existent,” Holtby said. “Our D and our forwards really took it to heart that we need to bear down on our end and it was outstanding. We’re going to need that to keep moving forward.”