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Capitals believe Holtby 'deserved a better fate'

by David Satriano / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 37 saves but was unable to stop Derek Stepan's shot 11:24 into overtime, ending a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

Holtby allowed 13 goals in the series, including two or fewer in five of seven games.

"It was a great series," Holtby said. "One that could have easily went our way, but it didn't. We feel that we played good enough to win the series but we didn't. It's tough to swallow, but this group is special. It's a very special group and it's unfortunate."

Holtby finished 6-7 in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, playing all except Game 2 of the first round against the New York Islanders because of an illness. He had a 1.71 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, and allowed two goals or fewer in 10 games.

"We challenged ourselves against the best team in the regular season and we played really well," he said. "I'm proud of everyone on our team. It's tough to swallow, but there's no regrets in this room."

His teammates felt particularly bad for Holtby, who had 41 regular-season wins (second in the NHL) and played in a League-high 73 games. He also had nine shutouts.

"We really wanted to get this one for him," forward Joel Ward said. "I thought he battled all year long, especially in these playoffs and how hard he worked. We really wanted to win and get one for him. He deserved a better fate than that."

Coach Barry Trotz praised Holtby and said he expects him to be one of the League's best for years to come.

"I think everybody has seen how Braden has been elevated as an elite goaltender in this league," Trotz said. "Holtby has been our backbone all year. He's played more games than anybody in the National Hockey League this year and he's turning into our DNA. Great character, great work ethic, and that's what is going to make us stronger as an organization."

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