NHL

Holtby has been a force in goal to lead Capitals

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Associated Press
5/5/2013 7:16:28 PM
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NEW YORK -- In the first-round matchup between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals there is a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie who has taken his team to the Eastern Conference finals, and of course there is ... the other guy.

No, Washington's Braden Holtby doesn't have the awards, the accolades or the attention that New York counterpart Henrik Lundqvist has grown accustomed to.

What he and the Capitals do have is a big 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

Holtby yielded only one goal in the Capitals' victory in Game 1, outdueling Lundqvist on a night the star goalie felt at least one if not two of the three Washington goals should have been stopped.

Holtby and Lundqvist were both on top of their games Saturday and pitched regulation shutouts at each other. Mike Green managed to get a power-play shot past Lundqvist in overtime, and the Capitals held serve at home with a stirring 1-0 victory.

First-year Capitals coach Adam Oates is no stranger to Lundqvist's game. Consider him impressed.

"He's exactly what everybody says. He's a great goalie," Oates said.

Holtby is making a name for himself, too, after going 23-12-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average in 36 regular-season games. He had only been in 21 total NHL games the previous two seasons before getting into 14 playoff games a year ago.

He stayed off the ice on Sunday and enjoyed some well-earned rest time.

"Rest is obviously an important part in preparation," Holtby said. "We'll get back on the ice (Monday) in pregame skate and get our legs back under us. Use the rest to our advantage and come in with the right frame of mind and ready to play."

Madison Square Garden will surely be fired up on Monday, but there will be a healthy dose of nerves in the crowd, too, especially if the Rangers can't find their suddenly absent offence in a hurry.

Carl Hagelin gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with 3:16 left in the first period of Game 1, and they haven't scored since -- going 111 minutes, 16 seconds without putting a puck past Holtby.

"We know they're going to make a push," Holtby said Sunday after the Capitals held an optional practice before heading to New York. "It's a big game for both of us."

If Washington can manage even a split of the next two games in New York, it knows it will return home at worst with a chance to knock out the Rangers in Game 5.

"It's one of the best atmospheres in the league. I believe we have the best here at Verizon Center," Holtby said. "They're passionate fans. They obviously want to help the team win. Our job is to block all that out.

"We have a job to do, to win the game. The atmosphere, the fans, the other team, that doesn't matter. We have our goal in mind, and we're going to prepare for that."

The Capitals have looked ready for the Rangers from the start. Not only isn't New York scoring on the power play (0-for-7), it isn't scoring at all.

"We've got to be better, go to the dirty areas, make it hard, make it so he can't get out of his crease," said Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh, whose delay-of-game penalty in overtime led to the winning goal.

"In this series, it's tough for both teams to get goals, so maybe we just need to put a couple more bodies around the net and throw it there."

Washington has relied on its system to shut down the Rangers. Forget about goals, New York didn't even muster a shot on net in the final 17:43 of play Sunday.

"I think a little bit of fatigue came into the game," Oates said. "They had more chances. (Rick) Nash gets a breakaway. He didn't get a shot on net, so, one of the most glorious chances of the game. Every statistic is skewed. They were in our zone a lot."

The Rangers, who reached the East finals a year ago before losing to New Jersey, have only come back once to win a series they trailed 2-0.

"That is the furthest thing as a worry for me," Rangers coach John Tortorella said Sunday when asked if his team was discouraged. "This is a good group of guys, and last time I remember you need four games to win a series. Our guys are fully aware of that."

New York got injured forwards Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett back in the lineup on Saturday, and they could have Ryane Clowe in there for Game 3.

Clowe, out since sustaining a suspected concussion on April 25, took part in practice on Sunday. He skated hard on Saturday, but was kept out of the lineup. If he isn't ready to go on Monday, it might not be much longer before he is well enough to play.

"I'm not sure. It's a possibility," he said. "I feel pretty good. I think it's day by day right now. The first time I really skated hard was (Saturday). It's just nice to get back in the routine of being on the ice every day."

Braden Holtby  (Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
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