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Hot Holtby shows signs of cooling

Goaltender’s play drops off in Game 3

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / April 17, 2012
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WASHINGTON - When the Bruins got their first look at Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby in the postseason, that was all anyone wanted to talk about.

The 22-year-old third-stringer was stellar in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Boston and gave up just one goal - in overtime no less - in the Capitals’ 1-0 loss.

Holtby was even better in Game 2 Saturday, leading his team to a 2-1 double-overtime victory to even the series. He had 43 saves in the contest.

Monday night in Game 3 at the Verizon Center, while still very good, the netminder fell back to earth a little bit and gave up four goals on 29 shots in a 4-3 loss.

Holtby was hard on himself even though the Bruins had a much better net-front presence than they did in the first two contests. He was particularly unhappy about the goal he gave up to Rich Peverley at the 35-second mark of the second period, which tied the game at 1-1.

“The first goal, that’s one I’d like to have,’’ said Holtby. “It’s a good shot, well-placed, but it’s one I feel my capabilities can stop.’’

If Holtby blames himself for that one, he was in no way at fault for the winning goal, which came with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining in regulation.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara fired a one-timer from the right point and it redirected off the stick of Washington defenseman Roman Hamrlik and beat Holtby.

“The last goal, that was just a tough break,’’ Holtby said. “Hammer was turning and obviously, wouldn’t want to deflect it, but it came pretty quick off his stick and it was a perfect deflection. Those are goals that happen. I saw it all the way but when it happens like that, it’s a little quick to react. I was reacting to the initial shot. But like I said before, it happens and that’s not the reason we lost.’’

Holtby said the Capitals will put it behind them and focus on Thursday’s Game 4 here.

“I think we’re going to see more of the same, that net-front presence,’’ he said. “I didn’t have my best game and I’m going to try to respond in Game 4. It’s just hard work. It’s not that we’re not doing it, we know as a group we can work better, and myself especially, and if we do, we’ll be successful.’’

When asked what was different Monday night from the opening two games, Holtby said it was a matter of needing to follow the puck better. The Bruins made it far harder on him in Game 3 than they had in either of the first two outings.

“Your eyes, some days they’re on, some days they’re just a bit off,’’ he said. “You can tell right from the start. You know it’s going to happen and you’ve just got to battle. It’s part of life, it’s part of hockey. 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, that doesn’t happen. All you can do is be professional about it and make sure you do everything you can to be at a level that will make you succeed.’’

Holtby acknowledged that the Bruins created more traffic in front of him than he had seen.

“The second and third goals [by Daniel Paille and Brian Rolston] were direct results of traffic in front,’’ he said.

Paille’s was a backhander from outside the right post at 9:38 of the second that tied the game at 2-2 and Rolston’s goal at 1:02 of the third was the result of him digging from the doorstep.

“[Paille’s] goes off him [on the initial shot],’’ said Holtby. “I couldn’t find it real quick. Then it goes onto his stick.

“[Rolston’s] was a scramble, I see [the initial shot] late, I find it late, and it goes off my pad right to the guy in front. Those are ones I’d like to play a bit better but those are goals they earned and we want to make sure we outwork them in those areas.’’

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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