Locked in a goaltending duel, the Caps turned to an unlikely hero to break the scoreless tie and give the Caps the edge in their series against the New York Rangers. Jay Beagle's goal in the second period proved to be as critical as it was bizarre, giving the Capitals the 1-0 win in Game 3.
It did not look like this would be Washington's night early on. The Rangers, well known for their fast starts and impressive road record, came out swinging from the opening puck drop.
"We would’ve liked to get out to a little better start, but we got on our heels a little bit," Troy Brouwer said. "They did a good job coming out hard. They’re real good at starting games off with some good pressure."
The Rangers looked well on their way to taking control of the game if not for the efforts of Braden Holtby. The Caps' netminder faced 30 total shots on the night, 11 in the first period and managed to turn them all aside, out-dueling his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist.
"I could sit here all day and tell you things about Holtby," Brouwer said, "How good he is, how good he's been for us. Tonight was no different. He made the saves that we needed him to make."
The shutout was Holtby's second-career playoff shutout.
Holtby's stellar night would not have been enough, however, without Jay Beagle's second period tally.
In the second period, Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky attacked the Rangers down low on the forecheck. Burakovsky was able to take the puck and find Beagle in the slot. Lundqvist made the initial save, but Beagle followed the puck behind the net and banked it off of defenseman Keith Yandle into the net.
"I just was trying to create havoc," Beagle said. "I got a good shot in the slot there. [Burakovsky] gave me a nice pass and [Lundqvist] made a good blocker save and I just tried to comeback around and put it on net because I knew guys were crashing there and tried to wrap it around. Got a little lucky and it went in."
A goal from the third line was just what the doctor ordered for a Caps team that had become reliant on their top lines in the first two games.
"We're going to need some new heroes every night," Barry Trotz said, "It's going to be someone different for us. That's how we have to get it done. That line has been buzzing and had some chances and some looks and [the puck] hasn't gone in, [but] the harder you work, the luckier you get."
The goal was a big one not only because of the game situation, but because the team was able to see what of its hardest workers rewarded for his blue collar play.
"If you watch the bench I think the team gets more excited when Jay scores than anybody else on the team," Brooks Laich said. "Just a good, honest, hard-working guy. Great teammate, great friend."
"He prides himself on more than scoring goals being good on the PK being good on the faceoffs," Brouwer said, "But for him to breakthrough get a goal and get us a win tonight, it’s a good feeling for him and for the rest of us."
Up only 1-0, the Caps then turned back to their brick wall in net to finish off the Rangers. Holtby did just that, standing tall in the midst of New York's desperate third period attack.
Now with the 2-1 series lead, the focus must quickly shift to Wednesday night's Game 4, a game the Rangers will desperately need to win in order to avoid the 3-1 hole.
"We’ve got to prepare for a very tough team in two days here," Brouwer said. "We know the Rangers are going to come back real hard and try to tie the series up."