NEW YORK — Braden Holtby was used to a barrage of pucks. In the Washington Capitals’ first-round series against the Boston Bruins, the young goaltender saw no fewer than 29 shots a game — and he thrived.
Then came Game 1 of the second-round series against the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, and Holtby saw just 14 and wilted under the lack of offensive pressure. He allowed three goals in the 3-1 loss, easily his worst performance of the playoffs.
“Obviously, I wasn’t real happy with it,” Holtby said of his performance. “It’s a tough game to stay into, mentally-wise, and I didn’t do a good enough job tonight.”
Holtby admitted that he’d like to have do-overs on the Rangers‘ two third-period goals that ultimately put the Caps into a 1-0 series hole. But he was never really comfortable this time at Madison Square Garden.
“When you have a low [amount of] shots in the game, you usually know that there’s not a flow,” Holtby said. “We weren’t making crisp plays and whatnot. That’s what happened tonight.”
Jason Chimera and others decried the Caps’ lack of effort, as they were unable to match the Rangers‘ intensity. That’s tough to get a grip on considering New York just polished off the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
“I think they had a tired group over there and we didn’t bring it tonight, myself especially,” Holtby said. “I think I had a tough time getting into the game, not because of the stakes but just because of how the game went. I didn’t bring the level up when I needed to, and I’ll work on that for Game 2.”
Artem Anisimov’s opening goal went under Holtby’s arm, though it came after the New York forward outmuscled Mike Green. Chris Kreider’s third-period goal that broke the 1-1 tie was a blast following a defensive miscue
“I don’t know, that really surprised me. The release of the shot kind of fooled me. I’m not really sure why; [he] put it just above my pad; it was a nice-placed shot,” Holtby said. “Got to give the guy credit, but from that far out I think I’d like to have that one.”
Brad Richards’ insurance goal went five-hole after he had plenty of space to maneuver.
“Richards, that was kind of my guy. I kind of let him go,” forward Jason Chimera said. “That’s my fault on the third goal, so I think I take responsibility for that.”
Even considering Holtby’s rough afternoon, teammates and coach Dale Hunter did not throw him under the bus.
“Holtsy gave us a chance to win, and that’s all we ask from our goalie,” Hunter said.
Right wing Troy Brouwer lamented the “high-quality opportunities” the Caps allowed the Rangers to get, saying, “Holts was good again.”
Holtby knows he might need to adjust if the shot totals continue to be low in this series.