BOSTON - For two years, Tim Thomas has been one of the best goalies in the world.
For two games, Braden Holtby has matched him save for save.
Making just his second NHL post-season appearance, Holtby stopped 43 shots Saturday to lead the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. One game after the Bruins opened the playoffs with a single-overtime victory, Nicklas Backstrom scored 2:56 into the second overtime to help the Capitals tie the defending Stanley Cup champions at one game apiece.
"There's not a lot of chances out there," Backstrom said. "This is how it's going to be, I think. For you, maybe it's boring; I don't know. But for us, it's fun."
Thomas made 37 saves for the Bruins, who earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference but now must win in Washington to advance to the second round. The Capitals will host Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday before the series returns to Boston on April 21.
"I would say it's going to be a long series," Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. "For us, it was very important to win this game and get the series tied, and go back home and have home advantage to play against the Bruins. ... We are pretty happy, but it was a long game and everybody is tired and needs some rest."
Troy Brouwer opened the scoring for the Capitals in the second period, and Benoit Pouliot tied it with 7:47 left in regulation.
Early in the second overtime, the Bruins won a faceoff in their own zone but Washington's Marcus Johansson was the first to the puck behind the Boston net. He passed it to Backstrom at the left faceoff circle and he wristed it past Thomas on his stick side.
Thomas barely moved as the puck sailed by his blocker. As soon as it hit the back of the net, he quickly headed for the locker room while the Capitals congratulated each other in the same corner of the rink where Boston celebrated its Game 1 victory on Thursday.
Bruins coach Claude Julien complained that his team wasn't winning the battles that are determined by effort.
"The proof is the overtime goal," he said. "We win the draw; they outmuscle us to get the puck, they get a good second effort to get into the scoring area and score a goal."
A 22-year-old veteran of just 21 NHL games, Holtby moved into the Capitals' lineup because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. Holtby played in only seven games this season, but he started five of Washington's final 10 games.
In the playoffs, he has allowed two goals in more than 144 playoff minutes, matching the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner across the ice.
"He is playing great right now," Ovechkin said. "We just hope he can continue. This kid can save us and keep us in the game in overtime."
Backstrom missed most of three months with a concussion before returning March 31. Coach Dale Hunter said the Swede wasn't yet at full strength, but he's getting better and will see more ice time as the playoffs go on.
Backstrom absorbed a two-handed shove from Thomas in the third period when he was swiping at a covered puck in the crease.
"Well," Backstrom said, "today I got the last laugh."
The first game remained scoreless into overtime, when Chris Kelly scored after 1:18 to give the Bruins the edge in the best-of-seven series. The defences dominated again Saturday, though each team did manage to break through once in regulation.
The Capitals took their first lead of the series when Brouwer poked a puck out of the crease and under Thomas, who was blocked by Bruins defenceman Greg Zanon. That ended Thomas's post-season shutout streak at 161:41—a span that included shutouts in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and Game 1 of this series.
Boston tied it when Kelly's shot was deflected and left trickling into the centre of the ice. Holtby moved out to get it, but Pouliot beat him there, chipping it over the charging goaltender and into the net just before he barrelled over Holtby and sent him sprawling.
It was Pouliot's first career playoff goal.
Notes: Washington had 16 shots in the first two periods, just one fewer than they had in the series opener. ... Bruins F David Krejci was in the lineup despite being hit by a falling pane from the boards during the postgame celebration on Thursday. ... Julien said backup G Tuukka Rask (lower abdomen) would need to get back into shape before returning. He has not played since March 3. ... The Bruins hadn't won a 1-0 overtime game in the playoffs since 1935. The goal in that one was scored by Hall of Famer Dit Clapper. ... Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was at the game.