With points in their last five the Boston Bruins were a formidable opponent to host the Capitals, Claude Julien's powerhouse group pacing the Atlantic Division. Washington needs every point they can gather in the season's final twenty-two games if they're hoping to join the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs come April.
Alex Ovechkin's 800th career point was the highlight of the matinee, the visitors jumping on the Bruins early and maintaining possession of the game's momentum throughout. Excellent goaltending from Braden Holtby stymied the Bruins (especially early) and allowed Washington to gain insurance against their hosts. The contest was sewn up after fifty minutes and a confident Capitals group celebrated their fourth consecutive win.
Ten more notes on the game:
- First things first - Zdeno Chara’s clear on a late second period Capitals power play broke his stick and Nicklas Backstrom was wrongly framed and convicted for his forechecking effort against the Bruins Captain. A hockey stick parallel to the ice surface is not always indicative of a hook and an opposing twig in the vicinity of a broken stick hardly proves guilt. With all the technological failures we see on NHL ice as the result of passes a little too hard or players a little too angry you’d really like to see referees Rob Martel and Francois St. Laurent exercise some tougher discretion instead of immediately agreeing with accusations.
- Speaking of the stripes it is not very often that a second minor penalty is called before play is whistled dead to announce the first. Tom Wilson’s High Sticking minor against Milan Lucic and Jay Beagle’s Holding infraction against Torey Krug put the Capitals down two men for a full two minutes. A huge penalty kill effort kept the game scoreless in the first period - the defense led by Holtby and his dedicated defensemen (including, unsurprisingly, a stick-less Brooks Laich).
- Holtby’s acrobatics trying to corral the puck behind Washington’s net highlights the difficulty that netminders have handling frozen rubber wrapping around stanchions and glass with opposing forwards bearing down against on them. It is difficult enough to control a zipping puck bouncing around the dasher board but in goaltender’s garb the difficulty is multiplied - the recovery effort, however, was (to quote Joe B.) simply sensational. Holtby, is the juice worth the squeeze?
- Ovechkin would get the scoring started with 81 seconds left in the first period, a one-timer courtesy of John Carlson’s perfect feed beating Tuukka Rask to the near post on the blocker side. Earlier in the period Rask got the best of a similar Ovechkin one-timer aimed between the goaltender’s legs and it was nice to see Alex bounce-back and find a gap. The late goal capped off a great first period for the visitors - outshooting their hosts by six.
- Ovechkin’s 800th career point came courtesy of a deft no-glance backhand from Marcus Johansson, the Russian sniper able to lean into another heavy slap shot - this one passing Rask's glove-hand and left ear. Who else was already about to start tongue lashing Johansson before realizing the head of steam #8 had? The Capitals' Captain would lead all skaters with an unreal 9 shots.
- Joel Ward’s assist on Ovechkin's second goal got his legs going, the grinding winger skating in past Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski before deking Rask out with a strong move to his backhand. The goal epitomized Ward’s role as an energy player in this League - his will and desire creating the great scoring chance from the blue line on in against twice as many legs.
- Bruins’ recent gold medallist Patrice Bergeron would respond with a power play goal of his own, a quick snap shot from the slot picking the upper left corner of the net from the right side. The two way centerman created space for himself by slowing down on his way through the slot and Dougie Hamilton found his forehand with a fine looking dish.
- A sweet centering pass from noted Tough Guy Shawn Thornton bounced off of Mike Green's stick going up, and over, Holtby - the crease keeper trying to find the puck between the traffic in his slot. Green was preoccupied with a swift skating Gregory Campbell and the bad-luck bounce brought the Bruins to within one heading into the final frame.
- Eric Fehr's breakaway from red line on in, and a dandy release putting the puck through Rask, would be the final nail in the coffin at TD Bank Garden halfway through the third period. Fehr got behind both Boston defensemen and made no mistake with the puck from fifteen feet out.
- Unlike in Thursday's Florida Panthers game Washington's two goal lead would last - all the visitors needed to escape New England with two points in regulation was effective puck possession and strong goaltending from Holtby to seal the deal. The horn at the end of the third period made it official - eight points in Washington's last four outings.
The Capitals travel home to Washington later today and must bounce back quickly to face the Philadelphia Flyers just past Noon tomorrow afternoon - Craig Berube's bunch coming into town after this week's seven to three whooping out West courtesy of the San Jose Sharks. The upset Flyers will be another measuring stick for Adam Oates' group to quantify their team against - but this time I'm feeling confident before puck drop.