Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby put on the best show of his short and stellar NHL career as he stopped 44 shots to lead the Caps over the Boston Bruins by a score of 2-1 to even the best of seven series at two games apiece.
The Caps managed to score twice on just 21 shots, but it was enough to make Holtby’s heroics count. Alexander Semin scored the game winning goal on a power play.
The Caps scored on the first shot of the game when Brooks Laich set up Marcus Johansson for a quick wrist shot past Tim Thomas. But Boston dominated the first period, pinning the Caps deep in their own zone for long stretches of play.
Rich Peverly tied the game at 1-1 when he kept the puck on a 2-on-1 rush and beat Braden Holtby between the pads. “It starts with our defense … we have to make that first pass,” said Caps defender Roman Hamrlik. “We let them get a 2-on-1 and they scored.”
The Bruins continued to dominate early in the second period, at one point leading the Caps in shots 25-6 for the game. The Caps countered with some excellent scoring opportunities late in the period, especially when Laich and Dennis Wideman both beat Thomas but hit the crossbar.
Late in the second period, on the Caps third power play chance of the night, Alexander Semin caught Thomas flat-footed, sneaking an eye-popping wrist shot through Zdeno Chara and over the glove of the surly Boston netminder. “It was a pretty good shot,” said an impressed Alex Ovechkin. “I don’t think some goalie has a chance at a shot like this. It was a sick goal and it was an important goal for us.”
The Bruins came out loaded for bear in the third period, attacking relentlessly as the Caps collapsed around Holtby. “They came at us real hard tonight,” said coach Dale Hunter. “Holts was very good. He stood tall and kicked out a lot of rubber.”
The Caps held off everything the Bruins could throw at them. Hunter went with his best defensive forwards, and snipers like Ovechkin and Semin saw little icetime down the stretch.
The home crowd appreciatively chanted “Holtby! Holtby!” as the clock ticked down. “It’s awesome to have that kind of fan support,” said Holtby. “It can get your heart racing pretty quick if you let it. My job is to control my emotions and make sure I am making saves.”
The game ended with the puck in Holtby’s glove, on a save at the buzzer, where indeed it had spent much of the evening.
The Caps and Bruins will have a busy weekend. Game 5 will be in Boston on Saturday at 3pm. Game 6 will be Sunday evening back at the Verizon Center.