By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: Chris Gordon
The Washington Capitals’ 27th-ranked penalty kill was one reason the team could have missed the playoffs. Now it’s the reason they’re up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
In a tight battle against the New York Rangers in game 2 on Saturday, the PK turned chances for crushing goals into momentum for themselves — especially while killing off Steve Oleksy’s delay of game early in overtime. Four minutes later, Mike Green literally shook Verizon Center.
During the game-saving work a man down, no player contributed more than Eric Fehr.
In his 34-second shift, Fehrsie nearly scored a goal on the rush, burning off valuable PK time in the process. Once the Rangers regained the puck, Fehr raced back, sticking to Brad Richards like glue. Once the puck was moved to Derick Brassard, Fehr sprawled on the ice to block the shot. With the puck under him, Brassard poked away at Fehr’s stomach, pushing him all the way to the boards. It probably should have been a penalty, and it probably hurt a lot. Fehr lay in pain along the wall for a few seconds, before making his way to the bench with a grimace. It was an awesome shift.
“It wasn’t so much the shot as the guy trying to get the puck out from underneath me,” Fehr said when asked about the pain he endured. “The block felt good.”
“That was a pretty aggressive spear,” he told me. “I thought it was borderline, could have been called. I guess the ref didn’t want to do that in overtime. I didn’t even know the puck was under me, and I got guys poking me.”
Either way, the Caps successfully stifled the third Rangers power play of the night.
Taken over a whole season, the Caps PK has been bad. But towards the end of the season, it ceased to be a total disaster. Fehr credited the pick-up to confidence in Braden Holtby. Knowing that he was able to make saves to bail the team out allowed the Caps to take more risks.
“Holts is obviously our number-one penalty killer,” Fehr said. “He’s making big stops for us. When we felt confident in him, we can really pressure the power play and really be aggressive on it.”
“We expect a lot of big things from our PK,” he added. “We don’t think we’re 27th in the league.”
Holtby, as always, refused to take credit for the success.
“I think that’s a big key to any PK, any game,” he said. “You have to trust everyone on your team. That’s probably a big thing both ways. The start of the year we didn’t really know where we were going to be, weren’t real sure. Now I know when there’s shots from the point the guys are going to be in the right position. We have a lot of trust in each other.”
“It wasn’t that they were doing a bad job to start with, it was just we were learning,” Holtby added. “Guys kept having faith in each other and that’s why we’re at where we’re at now.”
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