NEW YORK - Two days after allowing three goals on 14 shots in a loss to the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby arrived in much better form on Monday night for the second game of the teams' Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The Saskatchewan native -- who played just seven games for Washington during the regular season before taking a star turn in the Capitals' seven-game upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins -- made 25 saves on 27 shots to backstop Washington to a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, tying the series at one game apiece.
The Rangers were game, battling their way back from a 2-0 deficit on a pair of hard-earned goals, but Capitals team captain Alexander Ovechkin picked the perfect time to score his first goal of the series, breaking the tie to provide the margin of victory.
The Capitals opened the scoring 12:20 into the first period on the second goal of the playoffs by Mike Knuble. The Capitals took advantage of a Stu Bickel turnover to create a 3-on-2 break with Knuble beating Henrik Lundqvist after receiving a pass across the crease from Joel Ward.
The Capitals doubled their advantage at 17:14 on the third goal of the playoffs by Jason Chimera. The Rangers sprung rookie Chris Kreider on a breakaway as he exited the penalty box, but Holtby stood tall in the crease and stopped the shot. When the Capitals sent the puck back the other way, Lundqvist got caught behind his net trying to play the puck as it came back to Matt Hendricks. Lundqvist and defenseman Anton Stralman were able to stop Hendricks' initial shot, but Chimera played the puck off the skate of Ryan McDonagh as the defenseman came back to help, and the puck bounced into the net.
The Rangers got one back with 42.4 seconds left in the period on the fourth goal of the playoffs for Brad Richards. The Capitals got caught at a numbers disadvantage with Brooks Laich trying to change, and the Rangers made good on a 3-on-2 opportunity when Richards tapped home a pass from Marian Gaborik. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto also picked up his third assist of the playoffs.
The action settled down in the second period, as the two teams managed a total of 14 shots on goal. Holtby stopped all eight shots he saw in the middle frame, while Lundqvist stopped all six Capitals shots.
Game 3 of the series is scheduled for Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
NOTES: Rangers center Brian Boyle returned to action Monday after missing three games with a concussion. Boyle has two game-winning goals for the Rangers in the playoffs. ... New York Giants offensive lineman David Baas, tight end Travis Beckum and placekicker Lawrence Tynes were in attendance, along with former Giants center Shaun O'Hara and former heavyweight boxer Gerry Cooney. ... The Rangers were looking to win four consecutive playoff games for the first time since their opening-round sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007.