Braden Holtby

Rangers hang on, even series with Caps

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Entering Saturday’s game between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers much of the talk centered around the standard of officiating in the playoffs.

Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t happy with how things ended in Game 1 following Nicklas Backstrom’s hit on Dan Boyle. Barry Trotz told reporters on Saturday morning he didn’t feel things changed much in the postseason.

Officiating took a back seat to the goaltending performances by Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist in Game 2.

Lundqvist made 30 saves back-stopping the Rangers to a 3-2 win evening the series at 1-1.

Holtby finished with 32 saves in the loss.

“(Holtby) kept us in the first. We weren’t good, we weren’t winning any races, but he’s grown as a goaltender, and he will continue to grow,” said Trotz.”He’s just entering the prime of his career right now. There’s a lot of good things that he’s learned this year and he will to continue to learn.”

The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Rangers in Game 2s on home ice dating back to 1996.

Chris Kreider and Boyle gave New York a 2-0 lead after one period.

Boyle’s goal, which came with Joel Ward off for hooking, was the first power play goal allowed by the Capitals in these playoffs.

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s fourth of the playoffs got the Caps on the board in the second period.

Derick Brassard scored the eventual game-winner at 6:07 of the third.

Alex Ovechkin scored in highlight-reel fashion to pull the Caps to within one midway through the third; however, there were no last-second heroics from Washington on Saturday afternoon.

“I thought they had some good looks at the end there. Hank had to come up with a couple big saves,” said Vigneault of the final minutes. “They pulled their goaltender and they were coming at us with everything they’ve got.

“Our guys were working real hard and every time we were real close to getting it out, they were finding a way to pull it back in. It was a tough last couple minutes.”

New York’s last eight playoff wins have all been by one goal.

Game 3 goes Monday night at the Verizon Center in Washington. You can catch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Video: Kreider gives the Rangers an early lead

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Chris Kreider opened the scoring 38 seconds into the first period with his second goal of the playoffs.

Braden Holtby struggled to control the rebound off of Jesper Fast’s shot leaving Kreider with a wide open net.

New York second: Capitals stun Rangers for 1-0 series lead

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The Washington Capitals grabbed a Game 1 win against the New York Rangers with the kind of buzzer-beating sequence that won’t be forgotten for some time.

Nicklas Backstrom delivered a questionable hit on Dan Boyle before Joel Ward managed the 2-1 game-winner with less than two seconds remaining.

Boyle immediately left the ice, so we’ll see if the Rangers lose more than just the contest. The two teams brawled after the whistle, and one could assume that it had much to do with that Backstrom hit, Tanner Glass being sent sprawling onto Henrik Lundqvist and Chris Kreider’s collision with Braden Holtby.

Of course, it might have just been about the staggering series event that ended the contest.

The Capitals leaned heavily on Holtby in this one, as it seemed like he would make Alex Ovechkin’s first-period laser stand as the lone tally of the night. Instead, Jesper Fast was credited with a deflection goal with a little more than four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third, giving the impression that we’d get the first overtime squabble of the second round.

Obviously, that was not to be, as Ward found the net for another big goal. The guy just seems to have a knack for playoff scoring … especially when a new contract is on the line.

This loss really has to hurt the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers, but if previous Ovechkin/Lundqvist-era series are any indication, we could see many twists and turns before one team advances to the Eastern Conference finals.

Video: Kreider collides with Holtby

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It’s been a hectic third period for Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, and not just because the New York Rangers are pressing to tie Game 1.

Notorious crease-crasher Chris Kreider provided the most controversial moment, as he collided with Holtby. Judge that situation for yourself, as more than a few people were upset with the moment (which didn’t draw a penalty):

Holtby seemed in peril at times, as he also seemed briefly shaken up by a stick under the mask. (Perhaps he made a savvy move to get a whistle … or a combination of both?)

Those bumps and bruises will be easier for Holtby to manage if he can hold off the Rangers. Tune in to NBCSN to find out if he can.

Caps send Game 2 winner Grubauer back to minors

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Bit of an interesting move in Washington today — the Caps sent Philipp Grubauer, who won an emergency start for the ailing Braden Holtby in Game 2 against the Isles, back to AHL Hershey.

Grubauer, 23, stopped 18 shots to earn his first career playoff win — in his first playoff start — a victory that proved crucial for the Caps as they went the full seven games before finally dispatching of New York. Grubauer was given the nod ahead of Holtby’s usual backup, Justin Peters, because he’d been playing regularly at the AHL level — opposed to Peters, who hasn’t seen game action since Mar. 28.

It remains to be seen how long Grubauer will be in Hershey. Barry Trotz kept him up for the duration of the Isles series after the Game 2 win, saying the German ‘tender had “earned” the opportunity to stick around. Today’s demotion will also allow Grubauer to participate in Hershey’s first-round Calder Cup playoff series, but also be nearby for a call-up; Washington opens its series with the Rangers on Thursday, then plays Game 2 at MSG on Saturday.