Boston Bruins winning the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. But they started their defense of that title in dramatic fashion Thursday night.
Chris Kelly's slap shot from the top of the left circle just 1:18 into overtime was the only goal of the night in a 1-0 victory against Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden. Kelly's blast beat rookie Braden Holtby inside the far post on the rush after a save by Tim Thomas at the other end on Marcus Johansson. The goal ruined an amazing NHL playoff debut by Holtby, who finished with 29 saves.
The series resumes Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"Obviously he's a very capable goalie," Kelly said. "[Holtby] played a good game tonight, and I think that it's one of those things that, it's hockey. He's out there doing his job, just like everyone else, and you've got to stay focused and work through those things.
Thomas finished 17 saves and earned his sixth playoff shutout as the Bruins outshot Washington 30-17. After Thomas' kick save on Johansson, Joe Corvo banked the rebound off the side wall to Brian Rolston. He bumped it over to his opposite winger Benoit Pouliot, who fed the puck ahead to Kelly for a shot that might have been tipped by defenseman Dennis Wideman before it eluded Holtby.
"I think I was probably the most surprised in the building," Kelly said. "Like I said, I think it might have went off the defenseman's stick a little bit and changed up. Goalies are so good now that I think that the days of going down the wing and beating a goalie with a shot or a long pass. I was pleasantly surprised to see it go in."
Holtby, a rookie forced into action for the Capitals because of injuries to their top two goaltenders, Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, played like he had ice water in his veins. He was at his best during four failed power plays by the Bruins, including a double minor for high sticking against Jay Beagle that carried over from the first to the second period.
It was Holtby's first NHL playoff game.
"I think he played a hell of a game. Most of the time he kept us in the game and I think he was nervous, but after the first shot you could see he was calm and he was on his roll," Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said.
Despite his impressive debut, Holtby intensely critiqued his game after the defeat. Whether he plays in Game 2 will be decided by the health of Washington's other two goaltenders.
"I don't think it was a focus thing, it was more just being more precise. A few times I got lucky – a 2-on-1, a shot from the corner, things like that that I'll need to be better on," he said.
After being outshot 26-7 through two periods, the Capitals actually turned the tables on the Bruins and won the shots battle 9-3 in the third. Thomas was at his best when the heat was turned up. Last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner made a remarkable toe save on Ovechkin during one Washington power play. Then came the save on Johansson in overtime, with defenseman Greg Zanon making sure that during the 1-on-1 battle Johansson would get off a low-quality shot that Thomas could see.
Thomas had a feeling that if he made that stop, something positive would happen at the other end.
"Sometimes those shots on the ice are harder than the shots up high in that type of scenario. So I was obviously very happy to make the save," Thomas said. "And actually, it flashed into my mind right away, I was like, 'man, last year a couple different times in overtime, when I made a big save, we went right down and scored.' And then I saw Chris take the long pass, and saw he had a step on the defenseman, and I had a good feeling. I had a good feeling that it was going to go in, and I had a good feeling about the guy who had the puck. I could tell he had something today."
Ovechkin was quiet most of the night. After he averaged nearly four shots on net per game during the season, he was limited to just one in Game 1. All night long Ovechkin and his linemates were facing Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on defense behind the line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.
The physicality of the matchup was immense, as Ovechkin was credited with seven hits, and Chara and Seidenberg combined for 10.
"Yeah, lots of hits. It's the playoffs," Ovechkin said. "Again, it's a tight game. I think both teams played more defensive than offensive and the third guy was always high. It doesn't matter if I help back on the blue line and start skating like two guys were on me and the third guy was in the middle. Again, it's the playoffs and that one shot, I should score. He made a hell of a save, but in this game it's going to be different. We know we can play against them and it's nothing special out there, we just have to stay focused."