Braden Holtby carries Capitals to series win over Flyers
Posts 26-save shutout; Washington to play Crosby, Penguins
Early in the third period, a Flyers fan held up a sign directed at Washington that read, "You'll choke."
Not these Capitals, and certainly not against punchless Philadelphia.
Nicklas Backstrom scored, Braden Holtby had 26 saves, and the Washington Capitals beat the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 on Sunday in Game 6 to win the series 4-2 and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Capitals will play the Pittsburgh Penguins, setting up a marquee matchup of Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby.
"It's going to be a hard series," Ovechkin said.
The Capitals scored two goals over the final three games of the series and clearly need more from Ovechkin and Co. to have a chance against the Penguins, who beat the Rangers in five games.
Against the Flyers, it was just enough, though.
Ovechkin had an assist on Backstrom's second-period goal that easily held against the Flyers.
Riding the momentum of Michal Neuvirth in net, the Flyers won two straight to force an unlikely trip home. Neuvirth was sensational again, but the Flyers were ultimately doomed by a power play that could not cash in against Holtby. The Flyers wasted nearly two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play in the second period that made a critical difference.
"We sacrificed our body 5-on-3," Ovechkin said. "We paid the price and we won."
The reward: keeping alive the pursuit of the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
"It's a different group. The past is a different regime," Holtby said. "We are trying to write our own history."
Holtby, who had a 19-save shutout in Game 1, was barely tested with solid shots the last two games. The Flyers took only 11 shots against him in Game 5 and matched that feeble total midway through the second period. Most of their shots Sunday came from long range, and the Flyers never really attacked Holtby.
The Flyers entered a miserable 1-for-21 on the post-season power play.
Backstrom was whistled for a double minor for a high stick and Matt Niskanen was hit five seconds later for hooking, giving the Flyers 1:55 of a 5-on-3. The Flyers missed both shots with a two-man advantage. They later got hit with a penalty to make it 4-on-4 and wipe out the one-man edge.
"We just had to find a way to get a goal on the power play," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said.
The Flyers finished 0-for-3 on Sunday, but it's the 5-on-3 failure that will linger with them into the off-season.
The Capitals' penalty kill deserved credit, too.
"We watched a lot of their 5-on-3s and knew exactly what they were going to do," defenceman Karl Alzner said. "Holtby made some big saves and that was the turning point."
Backstrom helped Washington break Neuvirth's shutout streak that stretched 72 straight shots over nearly 110 minutes when he scored on a one-timer just below the circle with 8:59 left in the second period.
"Good pass, unbelievable shot," Neuvirth said. "I don't think I could have stopped it."