Seconds after Chris Kelly's shot found its way into the net past Braden Holtby's outstretched glove, the Capitals’ netminder found himself surrounded by his teammates. Washington's 1-0 overtime loss in Game 1 wasn't one the team was going to lay at the feet of their 22-year-old rookie goaltender, from whom near perfection was required to even reach that stage of the contest.
"I think he played a hell of a game," Alex Ovechkin said of Holtby. "Most of the time, he kept us in the game and I think he was nervous, but after the first shot you could see he was calm and he was on his roll."
Holtby finished with a stellar 29-save showing in his first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was an outing that reinforced the Capitals' faith in the Saskatchewan native and also left a strong first impression on the Bruins.
"I thought he played very well," Holtby's counterpart, Tim Thomas said. "I didn't see a lot of holes tonight. He worked very hard. I'm hoping he expended a lot of energy and wore himself out a little bit, because I hope he doesn't play that good every game. I thought he did a very good job."
Holtby showed some early jitters, but managed to rein himself in quickly enough. He was at his best late in the first period and early in the second as the Capitals were forced to kill off nearly six straight minutes of penalty time thanks to a double minor for high-sticking on Jay Beagle, that concluded only to have Troy Brouwer fire the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty two seconds later.
Boston outshot the Capitals 17-2 in the second period, with seven of those shots coming on the power play, but Holtby remained on point.
"I don't think it was a focus thing," Holtby said. "It was more just being more precise. A few times I got lucky, two-on-one, shot from the corner, things like that that I'll need to be better on."
Holtby is typically hard on himself after any loss, regardless of the precise nature of a defeat, and this night was no exception. To a man, though, the rest of the Capitals praised the young netminder's effort and said they believe he will be able to bounce back from the sour ending well.
"He's got to take a lot of good things out of this game," Jay Beagle said. "I've played enough with him to know he's a great goalie and he'll come back Saturday and play even better."
Said Coach Dale Hunter: "He'll be fine. He has lots of confidence. It's one of those shots that right inside the post; not too many goalies would have had it."