Two Goals, Two Points – Going into Thursday night’s game with the Bruins in Boston, the Capitals knew two things. First, they knew they weren’t likely to score many goals. They were facing a hot Boston club that had won five of its previous six and had allowed two or fewer tallies in each of those half-dozen games. Second, the Caps knew they needed a strong goaltending performance of their own, and that’s a corollary of the first.
The Caps were right on both counts, and they managed to get two points despite scoring two just goals, getting some solid netminding from Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth in a 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins.
With the victory, Washington pulls into a tie for eighth place with the Buffalo Sabres, who have a game in hand on the Capitals. The Sabres will burn that game in hand on Friday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Buffalo.
The contest was scoreless going into the third period, and Washington ended up drawing first blood. Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman took a feed from Marcus Johansson along the right half-wall and cruised into the slot before firing a wrist shot past Boston goaltender Tim Thomas to give Washington a 1-0 advantage at 7:59 of the third.
“I came in late there,” says Wideman, “and Marcus [Johansson] made a good play to pull up and see me coming in late and I was just looking at the puck and
trying to shoot as hard as I could.”
Less than two minutes later, Johansson broke down the right side on a 2-on-1 break with Caps captain Alex Ovechkin barreling down the left side with the puck. Ovechkin put some serious sauce on a sublime setup for Johansson, who one-timed a blast past Thomas to give Washington a two-goal cushion.
“It was a perfect pass,” says Johansson. “He put it right in the wheelhouse for me and I just wanted to get it in the net. I was lucky that when my stick broke
that the puck went in.”
It wasn’t enough.
The Bruins staged a late rally, scoring twice in the final four minutes of regulation to force overtime. Ovechkin had the best chance to end the game in overtime, but he shanked his shot from just above the paint to Thomas’ left in the waning seconds of the extra session.
The staggering Capitals steeled themselves for the skills session that followed, and picked up that precious second point when their players showed more and better skills on this night than the Bruins did.
“We know they’re a good team,” says Caps coach dale Hunter of the Bruins. “We kept them in check pretty much until the last couple minutes. They took
a couple shots, one got deflected, and the other one we didn’t get out, so it’s one of those things that, that’s hockey. You’ve got to battle back.
“We played well tonight. It’s one of those games that was a tight-checking game out there. Both teams were playing hard, and we scored a couple, got up, but they came back, and then we went to the shootout, and a couple of great moves by a couple of the guys.”
Vokoun stopped all seven shots he faced in 18:25 of work on the night. He left the game late in the first period after re-aggravating a lower body ailment that has kept him out of the lineup for much of March.
Neuvirth came on in relief and stopped 19 of 21 shots to even his record at 12-12-5 on the season.
“We knew we had to win and I think it was strong of us to come back and win in the shootout,” says Johansson. “We had a couple chances to end it in overtime too, and they did as well. It was strong of us as a team to win.”
Comeback Games – Tonight’s game marked the sixth time this season that Vokoun had returned to the Washington nets after an absence of two or more games. He came in with a 4-1 record, a 1.98 GAA and a .930 save pct. in those previous five contests.
Vokoun departed late in the first period of tonight’s game, having re-aggravated the lower body injury that has been a factor in him starting just eight of Washington’s last 24 contests.
Bear Hunting – Johansson has three goals and five points in seven career games against the Bruins. He scored his first NHL goal against Thomas and the Bruins on Oct. 19, 2010 at Verizon Center. Johansson's goal in Thursday's game was his 14th of the season, a career high. He also notched his 30th assist of the campaign on Wideman's goal.
Biting The Hand That Once Fed Him – Wideman’s goal against his former Boston teammates was the second of his career against the Bruins; both have come this season with Washington. Wideman had two goals and three points in four games against the B’s this season.
Helping Hands – Ovechkin assisted on both Washington goals for his sixth two-assist game of the season and his first since Feb. 25 at Toronto.
Bounced – Caps left wing Jason Chimera was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit on Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid late in the first period.
Chimera came off the bench just as the Caps had executed a dump and change near the redline on the bench side of the ice. The Washington winger – one of the speediest players in the league – came in hard on McQuaid, who was going behind the Boston net to retrieve the puck. McQuaid looked over his shoulder a couple times and knew Chimera was bearing down on him.
The Boston defenseman unwisely turned to face the glass just prior to impact, and Chimera checked him hard into the boards and the glass. McQuaid got up with some assistance, left the game and did not return.
It seems unlikely that any further discipline would be coming for Chimera; McQuaid bears some responsibility for putting himself in a vulnerable position and Chimera was merely finishing his check. Had McQuaid absorbed the shoulder-to-shoulder hit, he might not have even lost his footing.
While Boston coach Claude Julien agreed with the five-minute major, he saw no ill intentions in Chimera’s hit.
“When it happens to you, you also have to be honest about it,” says Julien. I think, again, he came off the bench, and he was going hard, and maybe it was a little bit reckless, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t intentional. McQuaid just turned at the last second and put himself in a bit of vulnerable position, but still I agree with the referee’s call: It was a
bit of a reckless hit, and it deserved probably a five[-minute penalty].
“When you look back at the replay, they had to make that decision. It was a tough one, but certainly wasn’t intent to injure by the player, in my mind. That’s why I keep saying – and you’ve heard me before – I really, really encourage our players to be careful, with the speed of the game today, to make sure you don’t turn your back to the play as much because those kind of things happen.
“And you worry about the security of the players, you worry about the safety of the game, and I’m one of those guys that will look at both sides of it and not just preach for my side of it.”
Chimera’s 15 minutes worth of penalties were the only ones assessed to Washington all night.
Quick Counter – Washington scored its two goals in a span of just 1:55. Boston did them one second better, scoring twice in a span of 1:54 later in the third frame.
By The Numbers – Wideman paced the Capitals with 26:07 in ice time … Along with Wideman, three other Washington blueliners logged at least 23 minutes on the night: Mike Green (24:54), Roman Hamrlik (24:16) and Karl Alzner (23:27) … Ovechkin led all Washington forwards with 23:32 in ice time and five shots on net … Matt Hendricks led the Capitals with six hits … Hamrilk and Green led the Caps with four blocked shots each … The Capitals won just 23 of 58 (40%) face-offs during the game … Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara logged 29:30 in ice time … Milan Lucic led the B’s with five hits … David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron schooled the Caps in the face-off circle. Krejci won 11 of 13 (85%) and Bergeron 18 of 25 (72%) face-offs on the night.