Washington Capitals right wing Eric Fehr (16) defends with goalie Braden Holtby (70) as New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) works in front of the net during the third period in the opening game of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series, Wednesday
Alex Brandon
April 17, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) Rookie Philipp Grubauer became the first German-born goalie to start an NHL playoff game, filling in for an ill Braden Holtby and helping the Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders 4-3 Friday night.

''Just like every other game,'' Grubauer said after making 18 saves as Washington evened the Eastern Conference first-round series at 1-all.

That sort of calm attitude impressed Capitals teammates and coach Barry Trotz.

''I just liked his demeanor,'' Trotz said.

Three-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin, who scored a goal for Washington, said of Grubauer: ''He was outstanding.''

Grubauer played in only one NHL game all season, Washington's 3-2 shootout victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 6. Otherwise, he spent the season in the minors.

He was told Thursday to drive to Washington in case he would need to play in place of Holtby, who matched team records with 73 starts, 41 wins and nine shutouts this season.

The 23-year-old Grubauer entered Friday with a 7-6-5 record, a 2.44 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in 20 career appearances for Washington.

When he got word Friday that he was going to start Game 2 against the Islanders, he picked up a phone to let folks back home in Germany know the good news.

''They found out online before I called them,'' said Grubauer, whose goalie mask has a small German flag drawn on the back.

The Capitals did not say exactly what was wrong with Holtby, who played in Washington's 4-1 loss to the Islanders in Game 1 on Wednesday night but hasn't practiced since. The team listed his status as day to day.

He hadn't missed a game since Feb. 15, playing in 26 in a row - the last 25 of the regular season plus the playoff opener.

Grubauer is the seventh rookie goalie to start a playoff game for the Capitals, a group that includes Holtby in 2012.

''I didn't want to get too hyped up,'' Grubauer said. ''Playoffs - I always see it on TV, and now you're actually down there and playing the game.''


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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