After a sudden and uncharacteristic goal outburst in Game 3, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals would have returned to their scoreless ways in the first period of Game 4 if not for the generosity of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
Coming far out of the net to play the puck, Holtby's ill-advised pass was batted down by Taylor Pyatt and picked up by Carl Hagelin, who blasted toward the empty net. John Carlson bailed Holtby out once by blocking that shot, but the net was still gaping when Brad Richards slammed the rebound into the goal.
Holtby's gift was particularly kind, as the struggling Richards had yet to score a goal in these playoffs.
The game had been uneventful up to that point at 16:25 of the period. Holtby held the Rangers at bay in front of their home fans, proving the wisdom of staying in one's net to stop shots.
The Rangers outshot the Capitals 13-6 on the period and took every opportunity to bump Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. That may have had an unintended but beneficial effect.
On a mad backcheck to bump them back, Ovechkin sailed into Derek Stepan and his own teammate Martin Erat. Ironically, both Ovechkin (roughing) and Erat (hooking) ended up with penalties on the play, reversing a Capitals power play and giving the Rangers a four-on-three advantage.
Worse, Erat was injured on the play and it is questionable whether he will return.
After Michael Del Zotto's penalty expired, that became a two-man advantage that will continue for 26 seconds into the second period.