Braden Holtby

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.

Nothing but Kuznetsov: Caps best Isles in Game 7

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During the offseason, the Washington Capitals spent big bucks on their defense after hiring head coach Barry Trotz. Those two factors seemed to come in quite handy in a Game 7 win against the New York Islanders.

Now, of course, the highlight reels will favor Evgeny Kuznetsov’s slick game-winner, and it’s easy to see why:

Still, the Capitals played a nearly perfect defensive game, however people feel about officiating and other issues. In fact, most would probably agree that even Braden Holtby’s goal allowed was more about the strong netminder having a rare (and almost critical) lapse.

Incredibly, Washington held the Islanders to just 11 shots on goal in the entire game. The most suffocating span probably came during the first period:

Wow.

Jaroslav Halak had his adventurous moments with wild bounces off the boards, yet he was often outstanding, nearly befuddling the Capitals in yet another elimination situation. It’s unlikely the Islanders are looking on the bright side right now, but at least they should feel confident about locking down a goalie who remains excellent with everything on the line (even with this loss, he’s 6-2 in elimination games during his postseason career).

With this, the Capitals move on to face the New York Rangers in a rivalry that’s becoming familiar to fans of this Ovechkin-era Washington team. One could argue that, when you consider the strengths of both teams, this might just be the best the two squads have been collectively.

It’s a crushing feeling for the Islanders, who move from Long Island to Brooklyn with a heavy heart (though they at least closed Nassau Coliseum with a win).

Harsh or not, some will single out Islanders captain John Tavares:

(To be fair, Tavares had a nice series overall.)

Many will wonder why Isles bench boss Jack Capuano didn’t pull Jaroslav Halak during an honestly surprising late power-play opportunity, but ultimately, it was a team letdown for New York. They’ll have an uncomfortable amount of time to think about that … and possibly make some changes to continue their strides toward contender status in the East.

That said, considering serious injuries to their defense corps, the Islanders may at least find some sweetness to go along with all the bitter feelings of seeing their season end on Monday. It just might take some time.

Video: Some skill, a lot of luck for Caps’ Holtby

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In “Any Given Sunday,” Al Pacino gives a speech about “a game of inches.” Sometimes that rings quite literally true, such as a moment in the second period between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.

Mikhail Grabovski was this close to scoring his first career postseason goal. Instead, it bounced harmlessly away, and Braden Holtby was able to freeze the puck shortly afterward:

Keep this moment in mind if Game 6 ends up being a one-goal game, especially if Washington manages to win. The contest remains 1-1 as the third period begins.

The second period also included an interesting moment, as Islanders defenseman Matt Donovan received a 10-minute misconduct during this exchange. Perhaps it was something he said?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for today

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A quick look at what games will be on what channels in today’s Stanley Cup playoff action…

Capitals at Islanders, 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Saturday could mark the final NHL game at Nassau Coliseum. The New York Islanders are on the brink of elimination following a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 on Thursday night. New York’s offense has dried up. After scoring seven goals in the first two games in the series, the Islanders have just four goals in three games. Washington starter Braden Holtby has stopped 98 of 102 Islanders shots after missing Game 2 due to illness. Chris Cuthbert and Joe Micheletti will have the call of Game 6.

Red Wings at Lightning, 6:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Tampa Bay will look took to take a 3-2 series lead after erasing a 2-0 deficit in Game 4 to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in overtime on Thursday tying the series 2-2. Bolts forward Tyler Johnson has four goals and an assist through the first four games of the series picking up the slack for captain Steven Stamkos, who has just two assists in the series. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 5.

Predators at Blackhawks, 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC

The Nashville Predators will look to stave off elimination once again tonight as the series shifts back to Chicago’s United Center for Game 6. The Preds will be without captain Shea Weber for the remainder of the series due to a lower body injury. Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling gets the start tonight as Chicago looks to advance to the second round for a third consecutive season. Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire are on the call.

Canucks at Flames, 9:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Like the Preds, the Vancouver Canucks will need to win on the road tonight to stave off elimination and force a Game 7. The Calgary Flames are looking to advance to the second round for the first time since 2004 when they came one win shy of capturing the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. With their loss in Game 5, the Flames have lost six straight games when they’ve had an opponent on the brink of elimination. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Scott Oake will have the call of Game 6.

Sens go back to ‘proven playoff’ performer Anderson

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Trailing 3-0 and facing elimination, the Ottawa Senators will go back to their veteran netminder tonight at home versus Montreal.

Coach Dave Cameron confirmed this morning that Craig Anderson would get the start over rookie Andrew Hammond.

“He has a proven playoff record of being a real good goalie,” Cameron told reporters.

Anderson stopped all but two of the Canadiens’ 49 shots in Sunday’s 2-1 overtime loss — a defeat that put the Sens on the verge of being swept.

As noted by his coach, the 33-year-old has been a solid playoff performer, registering a career postseason save percentage of .928 in 25 appearances. Among active goalies who’ve started more than 10 playoff games, only Mike Smith, Jonas Hiller, Braden Holtby, and Tuukka Rask have a higher save percentage than that.