Missed It By That Much – As the No. 7 seed opening on the road, the Caps’ goal is to win one of the first two games in Boston and relieve the Bruins of home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the two teams.
In Thursday night’s series opener, the Caps pushed the Bruins into overtime in a scoreless game, giving themselves a chance to win it with just one shot. Caps forward Marcus Johansson broke in on Boston goaltender Tim Thomas just past the one-minute mark of overtime and ripped a wrist shot that the veteran netminder set aside.
The Bruins quickly moved the puck up the left wing wall to center Chris Kelly, whose shot from inside the Washington line eluded rookie Caps goalie Braden Holtby for the only tally of the tilt, just 1:18 into the overtime session. The result was a 1-0 Boston win and a 1-0 Bruins lead in the series.
“It was obviously a great feeling,” says Kelly, who was one of six Bruins to score 20 or more goals during the 2011-12 season. “I thought we did a great job in the first two periods of getting the puck to the net, and generating some traffic, but I think we got away from that a bit in the third period. Obviously the shot total showed that. Always nice to end it fairly early.”
Only five seconds elapsed between Johansson’s shot and Kelly’s game-winning goal. Quick passes from Bruins Joe Corvo, Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot got the puck to Kelly for his game-winning shot in that short span after Thomas stopped Johansson. Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman appeared to get just a bit of Kelly’s shot, which may have accounted for a slight chance in the shot’s trajectory.
“[Johansson] had a play one-on-one,” recounts Kelly, “and Timmy made a great save and kicked it out, and I noticed Joe. Joe had a lot of time to pass it out to Rolie and over to Benny.
“I just happened to pick up speed wide and tried to put it on net. I think it went off [Wideman] a little bit, or changed up a little bit on him.”
“I don’t really know what happened on it,” laments Holtby. “I kind of lost it a little bit. I really don’t know.”
Washington wasn’t able to generate much in the offensive zone on the night, and Johansson’s bid likely qualifies as one of the team’s best scoring chances. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin was denied near the end of a Capitals’ power play in the third, and defenseman Mike Green missed the net on a prime chance just seconds after that same power play got underway.
A Troy Brouwer deflection from in front trickled just wide off the side of the net in the third.
The Caps were outshot 17-2 in the second period, although they spent 6:27 of that period killing penalties. Joel Ward and Karl Alzner had the only two shots on net for Washington in that middle frame.
Game 2 will be played here in Boston on Saturday afternoon, giving the Caps a second chance to take a win home to Washington.
Pitcher’s Duel – Both goaltenders obviously played well, but Thomas wasn’t tested much or very frequently; he needed to make just 17 saves in order to record the sixth shutout of his NHL playoff career. Thomas’ previous low save total for any of his career playoff shutouts was a 19-save effort against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 10, 2009.
Those 17 shots on net are the fewest the Caps have mustered in any of the 38 Stanley Cup playoff games they’ve played since Ovechkin’s NHL career began.
“When a goaltender doesn’t get a ton of shots,” says Bruins head coach Claude Julien, “it becomes a challenge for him to mentally stay in the game, and even physically. You don’t want to stiffen up; you want to stay warmed up, and sometimes goaltenders thrive on the more shots they get, the more they’re into the game.
“So I thought Tim did a great job of staying focused and staying sharp, and when he had to make those big saves, he made them, and that was nice to see, and that’s Tim.”
Baptism By Fire – Manning the crease for the first time in the playoffs in his NHL career, the 22-year-old Holtby saw 26 of the game’s first 33 shots on net in the first 40 minutes of play. The Bruins tilted the ice heavily against the Capitals during that span, owning a 50-20 advantage in shots attempted after the first two periods.
“It’s obviously a tough loss,” says Beagle, “but Holtby stood on his head and played great, so he has nothing to be ashamed of and it’s too bad we couldn’t get the win for him.”
Holtby kept the Caps close, and he gave Washington a chance to win. The Caps played well in most aspects of the game, but weren’t able to get their offense going to support Holtby’s strong work in the crease.
“I thought he played very well,” says Thomas of the Caps rookie netminder. “I didn’t see a lot of holes tonight. He worked very hard. I’m hoping he expended a lot of energy and wore himself out a little bit, because I hope he doesn’t play that good every game. I thought he did a very good job.”
“I thought Holts was awesome,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “His first NHL postseason game and I thought he was tremendous for us.”
The Killers – Washington’s penalty-killing corps was at its best tonight, and it needed to be. The Caps were tasked with killing a double-minor for high-sticking on Jay Beagle that spanned the final 1:33 of the first period and the first 2:27 of the second.
A mere two seconds after they killed those penalties, the Caps went down a man again when Brouwer inadvertently backhanded the puck over the glass.
Later in the second, the Caps were forced to kill off 96 seconds of a 4-on-3 power play after Holtby was assessed a roughing minor while the two teams were already playing four-on-four.
“With the penalties,” says Laich, “I thought our killers did a good job. Going forward in the series, we’re going to have to stay out of the box a little bit more. It leaves our offensive guys on the bench and taxes our other guys.”
Washington blocked 22 shots on the night, and eight of those came during the eight minutes in which the Capitals were shorthanded.
“It was very good,” says Beagle of the Caps’ penalty killing efforts in Game 1. “It was something we worked on in the last two days pretty hard. [Assistant coaches] Dean [Evason] and [Blaine Forsythe] did a
great job on video and broke it down for us and the PK was great.”
Body Shop – There was more than a hit per minute in tonight’s game, with Boston registering 40 hits to the Capitals’ total of 29.
Only three Bruins did not record a hit on the night: Tyler Seguin, David Krecji and (oddly enough) Brad Marchand.
Ovechkin led all skaters on both sides with seven hits and Jason Chimera chipped in with five for Washington.
Rarity – Tonight’s game was the first-ever 1-0 overtime shutout in Capitals franchise history. It was the third 1-0 shutout in Caps playoff history; Olie Kolzig blanked the Penguins 1-0 exactly 11 years earlier to the day, and New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist blanked the Caps 1-0 on April 18, 2009.
Working Overtime – The Capitals are 18-24 all-time in their 42 overtime contests in Stanley Cup play. Washington is now 10-13 on the road in overtime playoff games.
The Caps are now 2-2 all-time against the Bruins in overtime in Stanley Cup play, and they are 2-1 in the Boston barn in such games.
Since rolling up a 5-2 record in seven overtime games on their way to the Stanley Cup final in the spring of 1998, the Capitals are 5-11 in their last 16 overtime playoff contests.
Century City – Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference played in the 100th Stanley Cup playoff game of his NHL career on Thursday night against Washington.
Down On The Farm – The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays have advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Kelly Cup playoffs. The Stingrays disposed of the Gwinnett Gladiators in four games in the best-of-five first round series, winning Game 3 in quadruple overtime (the second longest game in Kelly Cup history) and taking Game 4 in double overtime.
The Stingrays open the best-of-seven semifinal series on Friday night on the road against the Wings in Kalamazoo. Game 2 is also in Kalamazoo on Saturday. The series shifts back to South Carolina for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, respectively at North Charleston Coliseum.
Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) would be played in Kalamazoo on April 24 and 25.
By The Numbers – Seven of the Bruins’ 30 shots on goal came on the power play. The B’s outshot the Caps 22-15 at even-strength on the night … The Caps have lost five straight playoff games, matching the second-longest streak in franchise history. The club record for consecutive playoff losses is seven, encompassing the four-game sweep in the 1998 Cup final against Detroit and the first three games of the 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Pittsburgh … The Capitals have scored two or fewer goals in nine of their last 13 playoff games … Including the regular season, the Bruins are 18-0-0 when Kelly scores a goal … Alzner led the Caps with 23:01 in ice time on the night. He led Washington with 4:08 in shorthanded ice time and 18:53 in even-strength ice time … Ovechkin skated just 17:34, more than two minutes under his nightly average during the regular season … Boston blueliner Dennis Seidenberg led all skaters on both sides with 23:52 in ice time on the night … Beagle was the Caps’ top draw man, winning 9-of-12 (75%) … Laich won just seven of 26 face-offs (27%) … Patrice Bergeron was a beast in the circle for Boston. He took 25 of the game’s 55 face-offs, winning 18 for a 72% success rate … Roman Hamrlik led all skaters on both sides with five blocked shots.