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Holtby, Capitals shut out Rangers, take series lead

by Shawn Roarke /

WASHINGTON -- Coach Barry Trotz said his Washington Capitals were in need of some new heroes if they wanted to take control of the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers on Monday.

Trotz got his wish, but it also took a tried-and-true hero for the Capitals to squeeze out a 1-0 victory in Game 3 at Verizon Center and take a 2-1 series lead.

Center Jay Beagle, who had been snakebit throughout Washington's first nine games of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scored the game's only goal to emerge as the unexpected hero. He was joined, however, by goalie Braden Holtby, who has been the glue that has held the Capitals together this postseason.

Holtby made 30 saves to allow Beagle's second-period goal to stand up as the game-winner. It was Holtby's first shutout this postseason and the second of his Stanley Cup Playoff career. The first came two years ago, to the day, also against the Rangers.

"I thought [Holtby] obviously was our best player," Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "He held everything down for us. I thought [the Rangers] got a lot of good looks tonight. That's as well as [Holtby] has played all year. He's had a lot of big games for us, but he was awesome tonight."

The Capitals maintained the home-ice advantage they earned with a split of the first two games at Madison Square Garden.

Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is Wednesday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Holtby's heroics have become the norm for the Capitals through a season that has served as his coming-out party. If anything, he has been better in the postseason.

In three games against the Rangers, Holtby has allowed four goals, making saves on 63 of 67 shots for a .940 save percentage. In nine playoff games, he has a 1.54 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

"I've played with [Holtby] for a long time, and it's something that I have come to expect," Beagle said. "It's obviously a confidence-booster for the team. It's calming on the bench when you see your goalie so calm in a situation like that. We feed off that."

Holtby held the fort for the first 27 minutes while New York carried the play for long stretches, allowing Washington to regroup and hunt down the bounce it desperately needed. The Capitals took more than six minutes to get their first shot of the game against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and then exactly six minutes to get their first shot of the second period.

On the sequence that led to the winning goal, the Capitals won a faceoff after committing an icing and were able to gain the center line before dumping the puck in. Troy Brouwer went in deep as the first forechecker to occupy the defenders and protect Washington as it changed lines.

Brouwer was joined first by Andre Burakovsky and then by Beagle. Brouwer made a short pass to Burakovsky, who fed the puck to Beagle striding into the slot. Beagle's shot was a bit wide, but Beagle beat the Rangers to the puck and circled behind the net before banking the puck off the skates of New York defenseman Keith Yandle and Lundqvist and into the short side of the net.

"Hit [Yandle], hit me and went in," said Lundqvist, who became the first to play in 100 NHL playoff games in Rangers history. "It's the kind of shot that happens and might happen in a game like this."

The goal was Beagle's first in 14 playoff games, dating to May 6, 2013, against the Rangers.

"It's not always going to be pretty, especially against a great goalie like that," Beagle said. "My goals are never how you draw them up. It's just a matter of grinding it out and trying to create havoc in front and good things happen. "

Lundqvist was nearly as good as Holtby, getting beat on one pinball shot and making 21 saves.

New York, which won Game 2 thanks in part to a strong start, was the stronger team in the early going again. The Rangers had 11 shots in the first period despite being shorthanded for four minutes, and they were outshooting the Capitals at the time of Beagle's goal.

Though the Rangers carried play for stretches throughout the game, they could not solve Holtby despite several quality chances.

Holtby was especially solid in the final two minutes of the game when the Rangers pressed for the equalizer. The Capitals iced the puck several times, but could not alleviate the pressure. Instead, they relied on Holtby to bail them out.

"It was obviously a little crazy out there, but I thought we did a great job of controlling our mindset, our game plan," Holtby said. ""We took a couple of icings when we didn't have plays, otherwise we had to take some instead of forcing something. We just played smart. At the end of the day, that is why we won."

The Rangers have to find answers before Game 4.

"They are so good at boxing out that we just have to outwork them to get on the inside," said Rangers forward Rick Nash, who has not scored in the series and has one goal this postseason. "They are letting Holtby see everything. All the pucks he sees, he's going to save."

Holtby made saves on seven of Nash's 15 shot attempts in Game 3.

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