BOSTON — For two years, Tim Thomas has been one of the best goalies in the world.
For two games, Braden Holtby has matched him save for save.
Making just his second NHL postseason appearance, Holtby stopped 43 shots Saturday to lead the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. One game after the Bruins opened the playoffs with a single-overtime victory, Nicklas Backstrom scored 2:56 into the second overtime to help the Capitals tie the defending Stanley Cup champions at one game apiece.
"There's not a lot of chances out there," Backstrom said. "This is how it's going to be, I think. For you, maybe it's boring; I don't know. But for us, it's fun."
Thomas made 37 saves for the Bruins, who earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference but now must win in Washington to advance to the second round. The Capitals will host Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday before the series returns to Boston on April 21.
"I would say it's going to be a long series," Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. "For us, it was very important to win this game and get the series tied, and go back home and have home advantage to play against the Bruins. ... We are pretty happy, but it was a long game and everybody is tired and needs some rest."
Troy Brouwer opened the scoring for the Capitals in the second period, and Benoit Pouliot tied it with 7:47 left in regulation.
Early in the second overtime, the Bruins won a faceoff in their own zone but Washington's Marcus Johansson was the first to the puck behind the Boston net. He passed it to Backstrom at the left faceoff circle and he wristed it past Thomas on his stick side.
Thomas barely moved as the puck sailed by his blocker. As soon as it hit the back of the net, he quickly headed for the locker room while the Capitals congratulated each other in the same corner of the rink where Boston celebrated its Game 1 victory on Thursday.
Bruins coach Claude Julien complained that his team wasn't winning the battles that are determined by effort.
"The proof is the overtime goal," he said. "We win the draw; they outmuscle us to get the puck, they get a good second effort to get into the scoring area and score a goal."
A 22-year-old veteran of just 21 NHL games, Holtby moved into the Capitals' lineup because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. Holtby played in only seven games this season, but he started five of Washington's final 10 games.
In the playoffs, he has allowed two goals in more than 144 playoff minutes, matching the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner across the ice.
"He is playing great right now," Ovechkin said. "We just hope he can continue. This kid can save us and keep us in the game in overtime."
Backstrom missed most of three months with a concussion before returning March 31. Coach Dale Hunter said the Swede wasn't yet at full strength, but he's getting better and will see more ice time as the playoffs go on. Backstrom absorbed a two-handed shove from Thomas in the third period when he was swiping at a covered puck in the crease.
"Well," Backstrom said, "today I got the last laugh."
SENATORS 3, RANGERS 2 (OT): At New York, Chris Neil scored 1:17 into overtime, and the Senators rallied for a wild victory over the Rangers in Game 2 to even the first-round Eastern Conference series. Neil got to a loose puck in front off a rebound and backhanded the puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The top-seeded Rangers seemed poised to grab a 2-0 series lead when Brian Boyle scored in the third period, but Nick Foligno tied it with 4:37 left in regulation.
Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators, who exacted some revenge on Boyle for some shots he took at Karlsson during Game 1. A brawl led to the ejections of Ottawa defenseman Matt Carkner and New York forward Brandon Dubinsky just 2:15 in.
BLUES 3, SHARKS 0: At St. Louis, Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak combined for a shutout, San Jose put itself in an early hole when Marc-Edouard Vlasic tapped the puck into his own net, and St. Louis evened its Western Conference series at 1-1.
Vladimir Sobotka was credited with a goal on the first shot of the game after Vlasic's gaffe. David Backes and Andy McDonald also scored, and T.J. Oshie had two assists in the Blues' first playoff victory since 2004.
Halak's left leg was bent underneath his body early in second period after Blues defenseman Barret Jackman slid into him. Halak finished with 12 saves, and Elliott stopped 17 shots the rest of the way.
Halak and Elliott combined for 15 shutouts in the regular season, tying a modern NHL record, and won the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed. Elliott was quite the luxury as a backup after setting a modern NHL record with a 1.56 goals-against average and nine of the shutouts.
BLACKHAWKS 4, COYOTES 3 (OT): At Glendale, Ariz., Bryan Bickell's second goal of the game 11:36 into overtime gave Chicago the victory and tied the Blackhawks' first-round series with Phoenix at 1-1.
It was the series' second straight overtime tussle. Phoenix won the opening game 3-2 in OT after giving up a goal to Brent Seabrook with 14 seconds left in regulation. This time, Patrick Sharp did it to the Coyotes with even less time in Game 2, redirecting a shot past Patrick Kane with 5.5 seconds left.
Antoine Vermette had two goals and Raffi Torres also scored for the Coyotes.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Chicago.
Nashville at Detroit, 10 a.m.Comment on this story
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
New Jersey at Florida, 5:30 p.m.
Vancouver at Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m.labelWordHeady goes here