WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — The Washington Capitals didn’t have Nicklas Backstrom and gave up twice as many shots on net as they generated, but still found a way to pull-even with the Boston Bruins at two-games apiece with a 2-1 win in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday night.
“I think we had a pretty good start again,” Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Physical game and we scored [on] the second shift. I think second period we played pretty well, [we] gave them pressure, and even third period we play safe. It is what it is. We take this win, it was very important mentally.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby made a career-high 44 saves, with 31 of his stops coming in the game’s final two periods. Holtby also has only give up a goal in three of his four playoff starts.
“I can usually tell when there are screens and I can follow the puck the whole way,” Holtby said. “I think that’s usually when I can tell that I am seeing the puck well. I don’t know I felt pretty good tonight, but there were still some lucky times. In the second period I felt pretty good, but there’s still some improvement.”
PHOTOS: CAPS VS BRUINS – GAME 4
The 22-year-old, net-minder tracked the puck proficiently all night, making several sparkling glove saves while fueling Washington’s defensive effort in a game that saw the Capitals get out-shot 45 to 21.
“We think he’s going to be good like that every single game and he usually is,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “That goes to show how thick his skin is to be able to bounce back after the four goals last game and people saying that maybe the flood gates are opening. That was a veteran-like response.”
The Caps defense helped a Holtby out a little bit by blocking 26 shots and not allowing a shot the last 7:13 of the game.
The Capitals got goals from Marcus Johansson (his first of the playoffs) and Alexander Semin (second), with Johnasson’s tally coming just 1 minute and 22 seconds into Thursday night’s game-four. The 21-year-old speedster collected a pass from Brooks Laich and buried a snap-shot over Tim Thomas’ shoulder, top-shelf, to give the home team the early advantage.
The Bruins pulled even twelve minutes later when a Rich Peverley wrist-shot beat Holtby, quieting the crowd for much of what was a sloppy first period of play.
But Semin’s power play goal – a gorgeous snap-shot that beat Thomas high – came with just 1 minute and 17 seconds to go in the second period. The eventual game-winning goal, assisted by Keith Aucoin (1) and Alexander Ovechkin (3), propelled the Capitals into the third period with momentum.
“He’s got great skill and he showed it there,” Hunter said. “They left him open for a second and with his wrist-shot, it was a laser right in the corner. It was a great shot. [Tim] Thomas didn’t have a chance.”
Ovechkin’s assist on Semin’s strike served as his 54th career playoff point, moving him into a fifth-place tie with Calle Johansson for the most postseason points in a Capitals uniform.
Washington’s captain was on ice for 17:01, accounting for a team-high four shots. Dennis Wideman and Keith Aucoin were both credited with three shots, but defenseman Roman Hamrlik was the only Capital with a plus-minus better than even.
A game after being whistled for nine penalties, the Capitals played a much more disciplined style of hockey on Thursday night. Washington wasn’t forced to kill a power play until there was 9 minutes and 51 seconds remaining in the game, when Mike Knuble was called for hooking.
Washington killed Boston’s third-period power play and then committed to playing stellar defensive hockey to close out a home win in game-four. How impressive was the Capitals’ defensive finish? The Bruins’ last shot-on-net came with 7 minutes and 13 seconds remaining in the game.
The Capitals went 1-for-3 on the power play, with Semin’s goal serving as the team’s second successful man-advantage in seven tries at home this post-season.
But game-four will be known as Holtby’s.
A 6-foot-2, 203-pound goaltender who had played in just 21 NHL games prior to the start of the 2012 postseason, Holtby’s tremendous play in net single-handedly kept Washington in Thursday’s must-have game.
“Holts was very good,” Hunter said. “They came out real hard, fore-checked us hard and we turned the puck over a few times. He stood tall and kicked out a lot of rubber tonight.”
The former fourth-round pick has now turned away 141 of the 148 shots he’s faced in the Capitals’ four first-round games with the Bruins. Holtby’s allowing just 1.60 goals a game in his inaugural NHL playoff series.
“I felt good but far from perfect,” Holtby said. “There were still some lucky times. There’s still some improvement to be made.”
Holtby and his teammates will now have one day off before playing games five (in Boston) and six (in Washington) back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve been playing this way for almost the better part of a month, where we just live by the day and focus on that day,” said Brooks Laich, who assisted on Washington’s first goal. “It was a game that we really had to have and we got big efforts from a lot of guys.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Braden Holtby, Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich had to say following the win.
1st 1:22 Johansson (1), Laich (3)
2nd 18:43 PP Semin (2), Aucoin (1), Ovechkin (3)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Braden H0ltby Postgame Audio
Karl Alzner Postgame Audio
Marcus Johansson Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio