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Capitals @ Bruins Recap: Capitals Grind Out 2-1 Shootout Win

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Lars Eller extends point streak, Vitek Vanecek leads Caps past Bruins in extra point victory.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight is the first time in 14 seasons that Zdeno Chara will suit up at TD Garden for a team that isn’t the Boston Bruins. This is how long it’s been since Chara was a visitor in Boston:

Let that sink in for a minute. Alright, carry on.

Despite it feeling like the Capitals have played all of their divisional opponents approximately 93 times so far this season, this is only the third meeting between the Capitals and Bruins. The teams split a two-game series on January 30 and February 1, with the Caps snagging an OT victory in the first game and the Bruins handing Washington their first regulation loss of the season in the second.

Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury, which means Daniel Sprong found himself, once again, out of the lineup. Here’s what the lines looked like:

This game was a bit of a weird one. Even though this was only the third matchup between these teams, play got physical and chippy pretty fast in the first. Then the ice turned to mud in the second period and the two teams combined for just 11 shots. They found a bit of a middle ground in the third, and it looked like this would be the period to decide the game. False! This game needed overtime after 60 minutes ended with a 1-1 tie. But wait, there’s more. Even extra time was not enough, and a skills competition was necessary. Let’s take a look at how it all shook out.

Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals limited the Bruins’ shots in regulation, and Vitek Vanecek looked solid when he was called upon. This was arguably Vanecek’s best start of the season. And yes, stretches of the game were technically less exciting than the hectic way the Caps sometimes play, but in the end that is a good thing.

Minus: While they limited Boston’s shots, Washington was also limited in their own shot production. The Caps only recorded 23 shots on goal in regulation, which is certainly not going to make Coach Laviolette happy.

And now, this:

Eleven more notes on the game:

1. Since this is his first game at TD Garden this season, the Bruins honored Zdeno Chara during the first TV timeout. Spoiler alert: it was just as touching as you’d expect.

2. It looked as though T.J. Oshie scored his sixth goal of the season after a slick back-and-forth with Richard Panik, but the Bruins challenged the goal claiming the play was offside. John Carlson air-mailed the puck into the offensive zone well above the glass and, after a lengthy video review the review room determined that Oshie entered the zone before the puck. To all this, we simply say:

3. The Capitals got their second power play chance of the game when David Krejci was called for tripping Alex Ovechkin with 5:41 to go in the first. 37 seconds into the man-advantage however, Ovechkin was called for interference on McAvoy at the Boston blueline. Ovi was slow to get up after the awkward collision, but he skated off to the sin bin on his own and was fine after serving his penalty.

4. It did not take long for this game to get chippy, folks. Things seemed to be devolving towards the end of the first and then with just ten seconds left, Richard Panik was dinged for an offensive-zone interference penalty and gave the 26.8% effective Boston power play their second chance of the night. The Bruins came back after intermission with renewed energy, but the Caps’ penalty kill stood strong and held the Bruins to zero shots.

5. After a high-spirited first period, both teams seemed to lock in and play a shutdown second period. Through those 20 minutes, there were only 11 shots on goal (7-4 in favor of Boston) and neither team took a trip to the penalty box after Panik finished his penalty that carried over into the period. Was it an exciting 20 minutes? Not really, but was it more of what Coach Laviolette wants from the team in games like this? Probably. Caps and Bruins still tied at 0-0 after two, shots in favor of Washington 11-9.

6. David Pastrnak finally legally broke the ice 1:19 into the third period after getting an odd-man rush opportunity with Brad Marchand. Marchand capitalized on a rough turnover by John Carlson — after a poorly planned pass his way — at the Boston blueline and took off down the ice, Pastrnak not far behind. Brenden Dillon was the lone defender back, but Pasta would not be denied. That’s 10 goals in 13 games for the Czech star, and Boston took the first lead of the game.

A small positive to note: Ovechkin’s back check on the play.

7. Alexa, play “Eye of the Tiger”! It was Washington’s turn to capitalize on a turnover — Sean Kuraly tried to be a little too fancy in his own zone and Oshie snagged the opportunity to snag the puck. Jensen fired the puck on net and Eller was there to clean up the rebound behind Tuukka Rask for the game equalizer. Eller is now riding a four-game point streak (3G, 2A). Also on ice for the goal? Zdeno Chara.

8. Speaking of Tuukka Rask, he made a handful of superb saves on Ovechkin in the third. The Great 8 had several good chances, but he couldn’t seem to get one to the back of the net. Here’s one of those chances:

9. With 5:30 left in the third, Ovechkin and Trent Frederic took matching penalties after, well, this altercation:

Both teams had a few good chances at four-on-four, but neither team could convert after both Rask and Vanecek made some stellar saves.

10. Regulation was not enough for these two evenly matched teams, which pretty much checks out. To overtime they went, with Carlson, Backstrom, and Wilson starting for the Caps. Dmitry Orlov almost had the game-winner with under two minutes to go, but Rask said an emphatic “No” and helped send the game to the shootout.

11. Shootout, boys and girls and babes. Jakub Vrana scored a sweet shootout goal and Vanecek was perfect through three rounds, stopping Jake DeBrusk, Pastrnak, and Marchand to secure a 2-1 Washington win.

Up next for the Capitals: another game at TD Garden at 7pm on Friday. If this matchup was any indication, Friday’s game will be a feisty one.

Oh, one more thing: we would be remiss if we did not ensure that everyone caught this highly entertaining moment: