- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

Not often does a goaltender jump to make a save — at least not while wearing skates — but Braden Holtby was going to keep the puck out of the net by any means necessary. The Washington Capitals certainly needed that type of effort in the opening minutes of their playoff matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Less than four minutes into their 2-0 victory, the Capitals were down a man after John Carlson was called for hooking. With the power play winding down, Flyers center Sam Gagner directed a shot at the net. Ryan White tried tipping it past the Capitals‘ goaltender, but Holtby took a slight hop and deflected it off his chest.

The Capitals were blitzed in the first period, and it was a great feat in itself that they exited the first period with the score still tied at zero. Philadelphia was on the power play three times in the first period, but the Flyers had nothing to show for it. A big part of that was because Holtby stopped all 11 shots he saw in the period and by the time the Capitals got back to their dressing room, they could finally exhale.

“He’s been great all year,” Capitals forward Jay Beagle said. “He’s been standing on his head, winning us games and stealing us games. With a bunch of PKs, you have to rely on the goaltender quite a bit. He obviously stood on his head again tonight. Those PKs gave us momentum. We had momentum coming [out of] the first.”

Washington tightened its game over the next 40 minutes, funneling the Flyers to the outside and keeping shots away from Holtby. Philadelphia landed just eight attempts on net the remainder of the game and Holtby turned them away for his third career playoff shutout.

Did Holtby like seeing so much action early? Sure, but only because he managed to keep the Flyers‘ attempts out of the net.

“You want to get into the game right at the start, but at the same time, you don’t want to give up a goal right away or it’s hard to come back through,” Holtby said. “Our team does it really well, but still, it’s one of those things. I like action at all times, so it doesn’t matter. Obviously, it’s my job. That’s what I’m expected to do and that’s what my focus is — to do it.”

Perhaps the Flyers would have gotten more shots on net in the second period had the Capitals not sacrificed their bodies to make sure those pucks never made it to Holtby. Washington blocked 10 shots in the period and finished with 23, and the effort was much appreciated by the Capitals‘ goaltender.

There was one sequence in particular 8:16 into the second period when Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik blocked consecutive shots and right wing T.J. Oshie got in the way of another.

The Flyers tried their best to generate traffic in front of the net, but it hardly mattered if the shots weren’t getting there.

“You just battle through it,” Holtby said. “There’s a few times I didn’t see the puck today and we came up with big blocks. That’s what it’s going to have to be. I’m going to fight for sight lines and guys are going to fight for their lanes to get those blocks and you know, sooner or later, some are going to go in like that. We’re going to put it behind us and do better next time. We were just fighting to keep the puck out of the net.”

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