James O'Brien

Holtby smothers Flyers, Capitals take 2-0 series lead

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Goaltending was, at times, the difference for the Flyers and Capitals in Game 2. That’s not meant as a jab at Steve Mason, either.

Braden Holtby was just that good on Saturday, turning in a performance that was arguably more impressive than his Game 1 shutout as Washington beat Philadelphia 4-1.

The Flyers hammered 19 shots on goal in the first period alone as Holtby was tested early and often. Philly was only able to best the likely 2016 Vezina winner once, and it was thanks to a deceptive move by Jakub Voracek.

The Capitals already scored twice (including a goal that will probably haunt Mason for the rest of his career) by the time Voracek generated Philly’s first goal of this postseason, and that’s apparently all Washington would need. Really, it was a rare performance from Holby by many measures.

Again, Mason made plenty of impressive saves …

… Yet that goal may live on for some time.

Alex Ovechkin found the net for the first time in the 2016 postseason. He also delivered another big hit or five.

The Capitals managed to hold serve at home to go up 2-0. The Flyers have shown flashes of brilliance, yet they find their backs against the wall once more.

This time it’s happening against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team and its all-world goalie, so this may stand as an even tougher challenge for the Flyers.

More on that goal

Steve Mason allows historically bad goal after making split save

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If you think you’ve suffered through a rough stretch on Saturday, try Steve Mason on for size.

In the span of mere moments, the Philadelphia Flyers goalie made a borderline inhuman split save that left him slowly getting to his feet … and then he allowed one of the worst goals you’ll ever see.

You can label it as any number of things, including “Adding insult to injury.”

The 2-0 goal is the sort that could really hurt your confidence:

People are legitimately stunned by how bad it was.

Now, how much does that goal have to do with that painful moment that came before it? One can debate that both ways, but the bottom line is that the Flyers are down after dominating the first period.

The good news: Jakub Voracek finally beat Braden Holtby, so Philly’s only down 2-1.

Looks like Tyler Seguin is in for Game 2

Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP

When Tyler Seguin took to warm-ups heading into Game 2, you could almost hear the drum-roll going off in the heads of Dallas Stars fans.

After that tease, the verdict is in: Seguin will play for the Stars against the Minnesota Wild tonight.

Seguin has been sidelined since March 17 because of an Achilles injury. He’s been a toss-up since Game 1. Some believed that the Stars would be wise to err on the side of caution until they drop a contest, but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one sitting one of the best players in the world.

It isn’t shocking that Stars fans are happy.

The line combinations looked like this during warm-ups:

We’ll see if Lindy Ruff eases Seguin into the game or if he chooses to throw him into the thick of things.

So far, he’s jumping right into the mix:

Scott Laughton makes playoff debut for Flyers in Game 2

Carolina Hurricanes' Jay McClement (18) defends as Philadelphia Flyers' Scott Laughton (21) controls the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP

Perhaps the key to beating Braden Holtby comes down to introducing a fresh face.

The Philadelphia Flyers are primed to roll Scott Laughton into the lineup for Game 2, making this the 2012 first-rounder’s first playoff game.*

With Sean Couturier out approximately two weeks, the Flyers will ask other players to step up against the Washington Capitals. Laughton hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard, yet like Couturier, his two-way game ranks as one of his calling cards.

It sounds like Sam Gagner will also get a promotion to the second line. If nothing else, different Flyers -some veterans, some young players – will receive chances to prove themselves.

That’s not to say that there won’t at least be a little of the status quo.

We’ll find out soon enough if these tweaks will pay off.

* – He went 20th overall in 2012.

Rangers beat Penguins at their own game to tie series 1-1

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Evgeni Malkin looked dangerous at times during Game 2, but the New York Rangers’ scorers ended up being the lethal force.

From showing impressive burst to forcing mistakes, the Rangers accomplished a lot of the things that made the Penguins so dangerous during their stretch run. In the process, the Rangers tied their first-round series 1-1 thanks to a 4-2 decision.

Phil Kessel scored the first and last goal of the game, but the story revolved around the four unanswered goals New York scored in between.

Three of those tallies came during a second-period stretch that barely lasted more than four minutes. J.T. Miller grabbed three assists during that blistering span; Derick Brassard was right there with him production-wise with a goal and two assists.

(This post goes in-depth on that pivotal second period.)

While offensive fireworks dominate the highlights, Henrik Lundqvist made a difference after shaking off that eye injury from Game 1. He made a number of high-difficulty saves (29 stops total) to make this an easier win for the Rangers.

In case you’re wondering, it’s tough to pin any of the Rangers’ four goals on Jeff Zatkoff. The troubling thing for the Penguins is that few (if any) goalies would have bailed Pittsburgh out of the mistakes that led to those goals.

People seemed curiously eager to attach blame to individual players when things were getting messy for the Penguins. The truth is that there were enough sloppy moments to argue that this team, hot or not, has a lot of work to do as this series shifts to Madison Square Garden.

Really, it’s only predictable that these two teams are going to struggle back-and-forth. If the first two games are any indication, it should be a treat to watch.

As far as bumps and bruises go, it sounds like Derek Stepan may have avoided injury in Game 2: