In such a low scoring series, goalkeeping might be the one thing that separates the winner from the loser. The Washington Capitals were the better team in that aspect as Braden Holtby had a career night, stopping everything the New York Rangers had to toss at him, while one goal from Jay Beagle made all the difference in the world.
The Capitals were the more aggressive and attacking team until that goal, coming 7:31 into the second period. Alex Ovechkin kept missing and getting blocked by Henriq Lundqvist who finished with 21 saves on 22 shots, but eventually beaten by Beagle, scoring his first goal of the series and the postseason. It didn’t come at the smoothest of ways.
Lundqvist saved and swept aside the first shot Beagle directed at him at the beginning of the sequence, but he himself went to the boards to get the rebound, swooping around the back of the goal for a backhand shove. The puck ricocheted off Keith Yandle near the post, then hit Lundqvist’s left skate and after those two bounces, ended up across the goalline. As Beagle said after the game, it was nice to enjoy a nice bounce for once.
Beagle has only three goals in 33 career playoff games, scoring 10 this season. His specialty comes in other spots on the ice, like winning face offs. The Capitals had a 40-18 advantage in that category in the 1-0 win, helping them secure the victory and go up 2-1 in the conference semifinals series. But it had to come with the Rangers piling on the pressure.
Holtby ended up making 30 saves, seven of them against Rick Nash who still doesn’t have a goal in this series. Martin St. Louis missed an incredible chance on a breakaway in the second period and the Rangers, despite their best efforts of throwing men at the goal and blocking Holtby’s view, could not get past the goalkeeper who is in the playoffs for the third time in his career.
We’re just going to have to keep throwing pucks at the net, and getting bodies there. Do our best to make sure he can’t see those shots and make sure we get some of those rebounds in front of the net. It was a tough way to lose, especially when how good our goalie played gives us a chance.
If you’re wondering, things are going to stay this close. All three games in this series were decided by one goal, with the Capitals holding a 5-4 lead in three games combined. The Rangers have played in 10 consecutive playoff games decided by one goal and in seven of this year’s eight games so far, they’ve allowed two goals or less. We’re not going to see any blowouts in this series.