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Holtby's PK work turning point for Capitals in Game 1

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Melrose impressed by Caps' Game 1 performance (0:50)

Barry Melrose breaks down the Capitals' versatility, which helped Washington win the Presidents' Trophy as the best team during the regular season, and says they really showed up against the Flyers. (0:50)

WASHINGTON -- There's a saying in hockey that a team's best penalty killer is the goaltender.

That was the case for the Washington Capitals as goalie Braden Holtby proved crucial during a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series Thursday night at Verizon Center.

The Vezina Trophy candidate made 19 saves to record his third career playoff shutout, but a pair of consecutive saves during a Flyers power play in the first period is what gave the Capitals momentum. Those two saves on the Flyers' Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn from point-blank range was an indication how tough Holtby would make it on Philadelphia. Those saves also gave the Capitals the boost they needed to settle into their game en route to victory.

"I believe I should make those stops every time," Holtby said. "Hopefully, at that point of the game it shows that I'm prepared to the rest of the bench and that's all you can really ask for is an opportunity to start, to contribute to the way the game is going to play out. Did it tonight and now our focus is to do it the next game."

The Capitals were a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and after the game players in the locker room, plus coach Barry Trotz, credited Holtby's performance as the reason for the win. The Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals knew discipline would be a factor in the first game, especially with emotions running high from the opening puck drop. Washington was a bit off its game and had three penalties in the opening period, which is where Holtby came in.

"Going into the series, we haven't played a really emotional game for quite a while and I figured the first period would be real key for us to sort of get our legs under us," Trotz said. "As the game went on, we got better and better. Huge penalty kills, a couple of big saves by Holts and a real big commitment by all the penalty killers involved and we were able to get through the first and we took over after that and found our game a little bit more."

The Capitals cleaned up in their own end and settled down in the second and third periods, and allowed only eight shots the remainder of the game. Holtby said stats don't matter during the playoffs, it's only about stopping the puck. It was something he was able to accomplish in a timely fashion Thursday and, thanks to his performance, the Capitals have the early momentum in this series.

With his third postseason shutout in the books, Holtby passed Don Beaupre and Semyon Varalmov for second place in franchise history in playoff shutouts; Olie Kolzig leads the way with six. Holtby has not allowed more than one goal in 14 of his 17 career playoff wins, including each of his past 11 wins.

It was interesting, but not a surprise, to see how physical Game 1 turned out between the Capitals and Flyers. There were bone-crushing, teeth-shattering checks and even decent fisticuffs between the Capitals' Tom Wilson and Flyers' Wayne Simmonds at 13 minutes, 9 seconds of the third period. When the final buzzer sounded, all the players on the ice were involved in a scrum behind the Washington net.

No doubt that emotion will only grow as the series progresses, and that's why Holtby's play will be key for Washington's success. Not that it's a huge revelation given his regular-season heroics, but Game 1 was probably a good indication of how the rest of the series will be played. The Flyers and Capitals split the season series and three of four games were decided by one goal. In fact, eight of their past 12 games have been decided by one goal, and Thursday's game wasn't too far off until Jay Beagle gave the Capitals a two-goal lead at 16:36 of the third period. John Carlson had the other goal.

"It was huge," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said of Holtby's performance. "The penalty kill and power play is a big part of our success and all the special teams did a pretty amazing job. The power play scored a goal, our kills almost didn't give them anything and Holts was outstanding. We'll have to play the same way."

If history is any indication, the Capitals should be in good shape with a 24-16 record in Game 1s and they're 16-8 when starting a series at home. Plus, it helps that they have one of the best goalies in the league between the pipes.

"He obviously stood on his head tonight, and those PKs gave us momentum in the first," Beagle said.