NEW YORK -- Capitals coach Dale Hunter was asked if he needed to say anything to goaltender Braden Holtby after a crushing 3-2 overtime defeat to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
"I don't have to." Hunter said. "He's a resilient kid and a battler. He's going to come out and battle again."
For 59 minutes and 53 seconds, Holtby battled his way to a 2-1 lead and had the Capitals seconds away from taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. He had stopped 34 of 35 shots during a game in which the top-seeded Rangers held the territorial advantage but the seventh-seeded Capitals had the edge on the scoreboard.
But with Caps forward Joel Ward in the box for four minutes for high sticking, Rangers center Brad Richards was able to score with 6.6 seconds left in regulation by smacking the puck into the net just before Holtby could cover it. At 1:35 of overtime, a long shot by Rangers defenseman Marc Staal hit at least one Capital on the way to the net and beat Holtby for the winner.
"I didn't see a thing," Holtby said of the winning goal. "Whether it had a lane or not, I'll have to look at the video to see if I could have done a better job of seeing around the traffic. That's what happens when we play a style where we block a lot of shots. Sometimes those go in and it just happened to be in overtime today."
The 22-year-old Holtby has one major thing on his side heading into Game 6 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center -- he hasn't lost two games in a row over his combined 19 regular-season and postseason games this year.
When Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner was asked what to say to Holtby to keep his spirits up, he said the message would be positive.
"Just reminding him that he's playing great," Alzner said. "There's nothing really that he can do otherwise. It's just him continuing to do what he does and we do a better job of burying our chances and keeping them away from the net as much as possible. They had a good start. They started the way we started the game before this. They needed to do that. So it was a good job by them in the first."
Holtby turned aside 16 of 17 shots in the first period, with the only blemish coming on an Anton Stralman goal from a tough angle. He stopped 18 of 18 shots over the second and third periods before Richards was a half-second quicker at getting to a loose puck.
"It's a tough loss," Holtby said, "but we'll have to regroup for Game 6."
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