Stanley Cup Playoffs 2013: As shutouts go, this one was fairly easy for Caps’ Holtby

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Braden Holtby didn’t break much of a sweat in picking up his first career Stanley Cup playoff shutout Saturday. The Washington Capitals goaltender helped extend the New York Rangers‘ scoreless streak to 111 minutes, 16 seconds, but it wasn’t like he had to do much to win Game 2.

“It wasn’t a very straining game on a goalie,” Holtby said. “They probably didn’t even reach double digits in scoring chances. I felt comfortable out there, but there’s still room for improvement.”

Holtby made 24 saves in the 1-0 overtime victory, but not even a handful were difficult stops.

“That’s all the credit to our team, especially our defensive effort,” Holtby said. “I know I can be better. There are a couple plays that could have went in, and I’ll work on those.”

Nothing went in, though the Rangers accepted responsibility for not making life more difficult on Holtby and the Caps.

“We’ve got to be smart and try and establish the forecheck a little bit,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You can see when we do that, we get some chances. We just didn’t do that enough.”

The Rangers‘ hope in Game 3 and beyond is that Rick Nash can get going. The big winger had their best scoring chance with 3:44 left in the third period Saturday, a breakaway that clanked off the post.

Because Nash didn’t get it on net, the Rangers went the final 17:43 without a shot.

“When everybody’s on the same page, that’s when tight defense is key,” defenseman Mike Green said. “Everybody played well, everybody was pulling the same wagon and we did well.”

Holtby did his part, even though that wasn’t a difficult task.

“I think we’re just keeping it simple now,” the 23-year-old goalie said. “The main thing is you have to be calm on it. You want to be aggressive, but once you start running around, you get out of place. Simplify, know your job, and guys are doing a tremendous job of it right now.”

Very optional practice

Leading the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 2-0, the Caps had an optional practice Sunday before traveling to New York for Monday’s Game 3. Only two players who participated in Game 2, defenseman Jack Hillen and center Jay Beagle, skated along with the scratches.

“You want to give guys every opportunity to breathe,” Oates said. “From us, from the game, from stress, fatigue, all the variables that come into play.”

Oates didn’t even hold a team meeting. He just wanted players to arrive at the practice facility and do what they needed to do between games.

“It’s always nice when your body can rest and you get ready,” left wing Martin Erat said. “I think in playoffs it doesn’t matter if you practice or not. You have to get ready for a game, whatever the best way you can do it.”

Puck over glass dilemma

A lot of players don’t like that flipping the puck over the glass from the defensive zone is an automatic delay of game penalty. Defenseman Steve Oleksy did it in Game 2, and when McDonagh was called for the penalty, the Caps scored on the ensuing power play.

Oates doesn’t mind it being a penalty, and not just because it benefited his team.

“I think it’s a good rule,” he said. “It’s designed so that there’s no free plays anymore. He didn’t control the puck, he shot it in the stands. That’s a wasted possession. It wasn’t as threatening or he wasn’t necessarily tired, but it’s a mistake.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner, who escaped a trip to the box because he deflected the puck out instead of shooting it, doesn’t like the rule because he spent much of his life accustomed to treating it like an icing call. The NHL instituted the rule in 2005, but it’s not present at every level of the sport.

“For most of the players, it’s new,” Oates said. “They’ve been playing their whole life one way and all of a sudden you’re throwing this situation in that every once in awhile it happens where a guy bats it out of the air. That’s the reaction the guy’s done his whole life. Now you’re asking him to change that. That makes it tough.”

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