Every night during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eye On Hockey writers Adam Gretz and Chris Peters will bring you up to speed everything you need to know about all of the action around the NHL. Here's what you need to know about the Rangers and Capitals.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals, Game 3
Capitals 1, Rangers 0 | Capitals lead series 2-1 | Game 4 Wednesday
Game 3 in a nutshell: The Rangers opened the game about as well as they could have with tremendous pressure and setting the pace and requiring the Capitals play at their speed. Washington still generated some chances, but it was a bad-angle goal from Jay Beagle not quite halfway through the second period that ended up as the only tally of the night for either team. The Capitals held on despite a late push from the Rangers to take a 2-1 series lead.
Turning point: Braden Holtby woke up and set his panic meter to zero. Despite getting peppered with shots early and facing multiple quality chances from the New York Rangers throughout the game, Holtby was unshaken. You know a goaltender is feeling it when he almost looks disinterested with the game. That’s how Holtby looked. He didn’t have a care in the world from the second the puck dropped. He ended up making 30 saves to earn his first of the postseason.
Three things we learned
1. Sometimes all you need is a bounce. The Capitals played very well in spurts, but the Rangers controlled a lot of the game in terms of possession. Washington generated several quality chances, but it was a low-percentage attempt that ended up beating Henrik Lundqvist. Jay Beagle’s deflected shot from behind the net was the game’s only goal. It was nothing more than a fortuitous bounce for the Capitals. That’s what the playoffs can bring. The Rangers played a great game and it just wasn’t enough. They have nothing to be ashamed of in terms of effort or game plan. They just didn’t get the shots to drop.
2. The speed of this game was ridiculous. The Rangers want to play fast and they absolutely did. Where the Capitals succeeded in making things more difficult for the speedy Rangers was in the neutral zone. They didn’t let New York generate a lot on the rush, which helped Holtby. The Caps also were excellent in front of their own net. They allowed shots, yes, but they were helping Holtby by clearing pucks and getting some key blocks. A block from John Carlson late in the game sticks out as one of those key plays that helped Washington win. The speed never allowed anyone, including those of us watching, to catch their breaths.
3. Good goaltending is exciting. This was a 1-0 game and it might have been one of the very best games of the postseason that ended in regulation. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Holtby made some phenomenal saves. Lundqvist only saw 22 shots, but multiple in-close attempts from some of Washington’s best offensive players. A big stop on Alex Ovechkin in the first period really gave the Rangers a lift. Holtby was just a bit better, though, as he earned his first shutout and improved his postseason save percentage to .948. The 25-year-old had a great year, and has taken his game to an even higher level in the playoffs.
GIF of the game: Since Holtby was such a big part of the Game 3 story, here's a look at how he gets himself ready before games. You ever hear that goalies are weird? Yeah, goalies are pretty weird. But this seems to be working for the Caps netminder. Gif via @myregularface: