WASHINGTON - In a tense goaltenders' duel decided by a banked shot from behind the net, Braden Holtby blanked the Rangers, 1-0, with 30 saves Monday night as the Washington Capitals took a 2-1 lead in the second-round playoff series.
The lone goal was scored by Jay Beagle at 7:31 of the second period on a shot from behind the Rangers' net that first hit Keith Yandle's skate and then Henrik Lundqvist's left skate and slid across the goal line.
"It's tough luck,'' Lundqvist said. "It went off Keith's leg and the next thing you know, it's in the net. Both teams had great chances. We just have to talk about how to get in front more.''
It was Holtby's second career playoff shutout and the first time the Rangers have been held scoreless in the playoffs since last year in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings at Madison Square Garden. Game 4 is here Wednesday night.
"When we're in front, they're stepping in front of us and blocking shots,'' Rick Nash said. "It's a battle in front and you've got to win that battle, especially the second rebounds that are sitting there. They're getting to them.''
Said Martin St. Louis, "We have to try and bring the same energy [in Game 4]. They're bound to go in.''
With about seven minutes to play, both sides had tremendous chances. The Rangers buzzed Holtby and had several opportunities to tie the score, but the Capitals' defense, led by Matt Niskanen, put up a wall in front and Dominic Moore and Kevin Hayes just missed shots from close range.
The Capitals then turned up the pressure and Alex Ovechkin hit the post from the left circle. Lundqvist (21 saves) was pulled with 1:20 to play and Nash tipped a shot in front with 46.6 seconds left that Holtby gloved over his head.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of his reaction, "I wouldn't say frustrated, I would say disappointed. Their centermen are doing a real good job on faceoffs and their whole team is making defensive plays that are making it real tough to get some great opportunities.''
When Tom Wilson boarded James Sheppard at 1:21 of the third period, the Rangers had their second power play. Near the end, J.T. Miller's good shot was blocked by Holtby. The Capitals are 21-for-22 on the penalty kill against the Islanders and Rangers in the postseason.
With the game scoreless, the Rangers got their first power play 13 seconds into the second period when Karl Alzner was whistled for delay of game after flipping the puck over the glass. But the Rangers, as they frequently have done with the man advantage this season, overpassed and didn't really threaten Holtby.
Then Beagle scored a playoff goal for the first time since May 6, 2013, against Lundqvist. The Rangers averted falling behind 2-0 despite misplays between Yandle and Dan Boyle.
St. Louis had a clean breakaway after a turnover, but his shot from between the circles hit Holtby in the chest.
The Rangers wanted to come out strong to diminish the energy of the red-draped, loud crowd at Verizon Center, and they accomplished that. They kept the Caps in their zone for several shifts and led 6-0 in shots, including one by Nash that Holtby gloved.
Lundqvist, appearing in his 100th playoff game, had to smother Joel Ward's shot at 6:17 after Marcus Johansson missed wide.
Chris Kreider continued his physical play from Game 2 with six hits, dumping Nicklas Backstrom and Ward on the same shift.