Braden Holtby had a much busier workload Thursday night then he did during Monday’s Game 7 against the New York Islanders. From needing to stop only 11 shots three days ago, the Capitals netminder made 31 saves as Washington took the opening game.
A tight match-up began with a power play goal off the stick of Alex Ovechkin late in the first period. With Chris Kreider in the box for high sticking, the Washington captain fired a laser by Henrik Lundqvist for the 1-0 lead:
The goal was Ovechkin’s third of the playoffs, leading to a warning to the Rangers’ goaltender.
New York pressed for an equalizer in the third period and got it with 4:39 to go. Kevin Hayes skated out to the top of the Capitals’ zone and whipped a shot that ended up going off Jesper Fast’s leg and by a screened Holtby to tie the game.
Things appeared to be headed to overtime, but Ward had other ideas.
A Nicklas Backstrom hit from behind on Dan Boyle — which angered Alain Vigneault and the Rangers — allowed Ovechkin to grab the puck behind the New York net. Ward sat in front waiting for the pass and when it came his way, he put it behind Lundqvist for the winner.
Here's that hit by Backstrom again, via Steph:
GIF: does he hit him in the numbers? not exactly pic.twitter.com/jXPsdBFFiY— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) May 1, 2015
Via the Washington Post's Alex Prewitt, Backstrom felt it was clean, saying, "In the playoffs you've got to finish checks. That's what I tried to do."
Vigneault declined to talk about the officiating and did note that a lack of a presence in front during that sequence allowed Ward to be all alone.
Game 2 is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
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