WASHINGTON – Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was able to overcome his nerves—thanks to some intense play by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Making his first NHL start, Holtby turned in a pair of saves on point-blank shots as Philadelphia kept hacking away in front of the net midway through the third period. The sequence earned Holtby a standing ovation from the crowd, and Washington gave him a win when Mike Green scored a power-play goal 29 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory Sunday.
“I knew they’d be crashing the net hard, and I like it when guys do that,” Holtby said. “It gets me into the game.”
Holtby had 23 saves in his second career appearance. The 21-year-old goalie made his debut—and earned his first win—on Friday when he relieved Michal Neuvirth with 10 minutes remaining against Boston.
Philadelphia had won six straight coming into the game. Holtby’s performance kept the Flyers from reaching their first seven-game streak since January 2002.
“I thought he was nervous after two (periods),” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Once he made that flurry of saves, I felt he felt he was confident. ‘Man, I’m in the NHL and I can still can make the saves.'”
Washington tied it 2-all on Alexander Semin’s ninth goal of the season at 8:54 in the second period. The power-play goal was set up by Nicklas Backstrom, who picked up the rebound on Alex Ovechkin’s slap shot and found Semin directly in front of the net.
The Capitals got an extended power-play chance to break the tie when Chris Pronger was given five minutes for a high stick on David Steckel with 3:55 remaining in the third period, but Washington was unable to break through in regulation.
“We were at our most effective in the third period, and we end up going in the box again, taking penalties,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said.
Another Philadelphia penalty—Sean O’Donnell’s two minutes for boarding—with 19 seconds left in the third kept the Capitals on the power play in overtime, and Green took advantage with his fourth goal of the season.
“On a team like this, if the goalie gives the team a chance to win they’re usually going to pull through some goals,” Holtby said. “It definitely gave me a lot of confidence coming in. It made me a little more comfortable seeing the guys like Ovie and Green out there, knowing that if I let one in we’ll get a couple back for sure.”
Philadelphia rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky fell one game short in his attempt to tie the team record of seven straight wins by a first-year netminder. Bobrovsky, who entered the game tied for the NHL lead with eight wins, had 36 saves.
“We fought hard today for that one point,” Flyers centre Mike Richards said. “I thought we probably could have played better, but Bob kept us in the game. He had some big saves.”
Nikolay Zherdev gave Philadelphia a 1-0 lead at 9:51 in the first period, when he kept the puck on a 2-on-1 break and fired it past Holtby. Eric Fehr evened the score later in the opening period with a shot from the far side of the left circle that found the top right corner of the net at 17:29.
The Flyers regained the lead at 4:04 in the second when Ville Leino deflected Andrej Meszaros’ slap shot past Holtby to put Philadelphia up 2-1.
The win moved Washington a point ahead of Philadelphia for the best record in the Eastern Conference, an accomplishment Boudreau said didn’t mean anything to him.
“Not yet,” he said. “It’s November 7. Tomorrow’s my son’s birthday—that’s more important.”
NOTES: Ovechkin’s assist on Semin’s goal gave him at least one point in six straight games. … Capitals C Brooks Laich left late in the second period with what Boudreau called an upper-body injury. “I’ve got to believe it’s not that serious,” Boudreau said. … Pelle Lindbergh set the Flyers’ record of seven straight wins by a rookie goalie from Dec. 22, 1982, to Jan. 4, 1983.