WASHINGTON – Braden Holtby stood in a corner of the Washington Capitals locker room, his arms folded across his chest, his voice low and monotone, his demeanor as steady and calm as when he was protecting the net.
"At times, I felt good. At other times, felt just like a normal game. Some days they go well. Some days they don't," Holtby said. "I was just trying to do my part."
He did it perfectly, actually.
Holtby made 30 saves for his second career playoff shutout and Jay Beagle took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to score his first goal of this postseason, giving the Capitals a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Monday night for a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"When he plays like that, we feel confidence," said Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, held without a goal for the first time in the series. "It doesn't matter what's going to happen, he's just going to make a save and keep us in the game."
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is at Washington on Wednesday night.
The line of Beagle, Troy Brouwer and Andre Burakovsky had no goals through Washington's first nine games of these playoffs, but as Beagle put it, "We felt like we had more to give."
"When the third and fourth line can chip in, guys like us can chip in, it's huge," Beagle said. "They're trying to shut down our top lines."
Off passes from Brouwer and Burakovsky, Beagle took a shot that Henrik Lundqvist swept aside. But Beagle kept at it, going to the boards to collect the rebound, then swooping around the back of the goal for a backhand shove of the puck. It ricocheted off defenseman Keith Yandle near the post, then Lund- qvist's left skate, and found its way to the net 7 ½ minutes into the second period.
"Finally," Beagle said, "I got a nice bounce."
"It hit him, it hit me and it went in," the goalie said.
That gave Beagle three goals in 33 playoff games following a regular season in which he scored 10 times. He has better known for other contributions, such as winning faceoffs — and the Capitals held a 40-18 advantage in that category Monday — and helping out on defense.
"I love the skill of the game, but I have a special place in my heart for all the grinders, if you will. Guys like Beags," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
This was the type of nail-biter the Rangers play: Their past 10 playoff games have been decided by one goal, an NHL record.
And in seven of its eight games in this year's playoffs, New York has allowed two goals or fewer.
But under first-year coach Trotz, and with Holtby matching Lundqvist save for save, the Capitals are proving just as adept at this sort of tight, low-scoring hockey.
"That's a tough way to lose," New York left winger Rick Nash said, "especially when how good our goalie played gives us a chance."