It took until the third game of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, but the Boston Bruins managed to crack Capitals rookie netminder Braden Holtby. He allowed four goals on Monday, double what he gave up in the previous two games combined, as the Bruins increased their net presence and wound up with a few lucky bounces in a 4-3 win.
“I think it’s just following the puck. Your eyes – some days they’re on, some days they’re just a bit off. You can tell that from the start, and when it’s gonna happen, you just start battling.” Holtby said when asked what the difference was in Game 3. “It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it’s not the end of the world.
“You can’t be 100 percent at your best every day,” Holtby continued. “That’s just not gonna happen. All you can do is be professional about it and make sure you can do everything you can to be at a level that will make you [better].”
Despite his self-criticism, Holtby won’t be blamed exclusively for those tallies. Washington experienced more defensive breakdowns and lapses in Game 3 than in either of the first two games, and three of Boston’s goals can be traced directly to those mishaps. It will be important for the Capitals get back to the stingy ways that served them so well in Game 4.
“He’s going to have saves where they’re going to end up in the slot and that’s what D-men are for, and forwards collapses down to clear rebounds and help him out,” Caps right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He’s been unbelievable in the first two games and in this game. We’ve got to help him out and make sure there’s no loose pucks around the net.”
The first Bruins’ goal was one the 22-year-old netminder said he would like to have back, though. Holtby muffed Rich Peverley’s shot when he tried to snare it out of the air with his glove and the puck wound up hopping past his mitt and into the net.
Daniel Paille’s tally later in the second period occurred when the Bruins’ forward was left unmarked and able to stand alone atop the crease, with plenty of time and space to gather a rebound from Greg Zanon’s point shot and fire it into the open net against a defenseless Holtby. Paille was Jeff Schultz’s man on the play, but the defenseman was caught up ice as the Boston cycle pushed the pace.
“I had a ton of time in front of the net,” Paille said. “So I thought I’d make a move and I had a wide open net so it was nice to go in.”
A scramble broke out in front of Holtby’s net immediately prior to the third Boston goal, and veteran winger Brian Rolston outmuscled Brooks Laich to break free for a crack at a rebound. Rolston pushed the loose puck past Holtby.
There was nothing Holtby could do on Zdeno Chara’s game-winner, as the shot from the Bruins’ defenseman deflected off the stick of Capitals’ blueliner Roman Hamrlik.
The Bruins found their success in Game 3 by forcing the issue around the Washington net, searching for rebounds and trying to exploit gaps in the defense to take more shots.
“The second and third goal, that was direct results of traffic in front,” Holtby said. “The second one goes off him, and I couldn’t find it real quick. It goes off of his stick. The third one, it’s a scramble. I see it late, find it late. It goes off my pad and the guy in front get it. Those are ones I would like to play a bit better, play harder, but those are goals they earned, and we want to make sure we outwork them in those areas.”
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