Keeping It Even – Two games into their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins have played 144 minutes and 14 seconds worth of hockey. Both games required overtime. A total of four goals were scored, two by each side and all at even-strength. One of the two teams has owned a lead for a total of 14 minutes and 16 seconds of that time. Each club has won once.
The Caps pulled even in the best-of-seven set with a 2-1 win in double overtime in Saturday’s Game 2 at Boston’s TD Garden, courtesy of a Nicklas Backstrom goal at 2:56 of the second extra session.
With the win, the Caps have claimed home-ice advantage in the set. Game 3 is in Washington on Monday night.
Backstrom lost an offensive zone draw early in the second overtime, but linemate Marcus Johansson pursued the puck down near the goal line to the right of Boston netminder Tim Thomas. Johansson flipped the puck out front to Backstrom, who threaded a shot through traffic and past Thomas to give Washington the win and send the series back to the District all even.
“I don’t know how I got the puck really,” says Johansson. “I think I had 3 guys around me and I just wanted to get it out to him. He got the shot off and it was a pretty big relief.”
“I got a great pass from Marcus there,” recounts Backstrom. “I was trying to get it on net. I think the puck was wobbling a little bit, so I don’t know if it changes direction or whatever. It was nice to see it go in, because I was kind of tired there.”
After missing most of the second half of the regular season because of a concussion, Backstrom gets closer to full strength with each passing game. He has been back in action for two weeks now, and today was his sixth game since his return.
It’s no wonder Backstrom was tired; he skated 30:03 on the afternoon, more than any other forward on either side.
“Absolutely, it feels good,” says Backstrom, of being able to contribute in the clutch after so much tme out of the lineup. “But, I don’t really care who scores in
the playoffs. We’re a team and we work together and we do everything together. So, it really doesn’t matter. It was great to get this win.”
The Caps went to Boston hoping to come home with at least one win in the first two games, and they got it.
“I would say it’s going to be a long series,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin. “For us it was very important to win this game and get the series tied, and go back home and have home advantage to play against the Bruins. The power play is going to be involved and again we are pretty happy, but it was a long game and everybody is tired and needs some rest.”
In The Nick Of Time – Backstrom now has two overtime game-winning goals to his credit in Stanley Cup play. Both came in Game 2 of a series after the Caps dropped Game 1 and were in danger of falling in a 0-2 series hole if someone didn’t step up and come through in the extra session.
His first overtime game-winner came on April 17, 2009 in a 6-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of that Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Déjà vu All Over Again – Twice the Caps have suffered 1-0 losses in Stanley Cup playoff play. Both times the setbacks came while a rookie Washington goaltender was making his Stanley Cup playoff debut, and both of those 1-0 losses were followed by Caps victories in the following game, with the same rookie goaltender in the crease.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist spoiled the Stanley Cup playoff debut of rookie Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov with a 1-0 shutout over Washington on April 18, 2009. Two nights later, Varlamov returned the favor with a 4-0 whitewash of the Rangers in New York.
Thomas blanked the Caps in the series opener on Thursday night in Beantown, putting Braden Holtby in the loss column in his first NHL playoff game. Tonight, Holtby rebounded and outlasted Thomas and the Bruins by a 2-1 count.
Net Gain – Holtby was strong again in goal while injured Washington goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth continue to recuperate. He stopped 43 of the 44 shots he faced on Saturday, and has made 72 saves on 74 shots in the series.
The 22-year-old Holtby now sports an 0.83 GAA and a .973 save pct. for the series and his Stanley Cup playoff career.
Late Thunder – The Capitals have scored the only second-period goal of this series and the Bruins the only third-period goal. During the regular season, the B’s were a dominant third-period team, outscoring foes by a combined 108-66 and thus accounting for more than two-thirds of their plus-61 goal differential on the season.
Boston’s 108 third-period goals led the NHL during the regular season.
Streak Stopped – Saturday’s win halted Washington’s playoff losing skid at five, matching the second-longest skid in franchise history.
Tight Affairs – Washington has now played a total of 39 playoff games since the Alex Ovechkin era began in the District in 2005-06, and 24 of those tilts have been one-goal affairs, with a dozen of them requiring overtime.
The Capitals are 10-14 in those 24 one-goal games and they are 5-7 in those 12 overtime tilts.
Overtime – The last time the Caps played consecutive overtime contests in the postseason was in the first two games of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Caps lost Game 1 of that series on a Tomas Plekanec overtime strike at 13:19 of the first extra session.
Two nights later, the Caps drew even in the series when Backstrom beat Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak at the 31-second mark of overtime, the fastest overtime game-winner in Washington’s franchise history.
The only time in franchise history that the Capitals played three straight overtime games in Stanley Cup play was in the 1993 Patrick Division semifinal series against the New York Islanders.
Washington lost all three of those games – Games 2, 3 and 4 of the series – with netminder Rick Tabaracci being bested by the Islanders’ Glenn Healy in all three contests. The Caps lost the series in six games.
Line Dancing – Caps coach Dale Hunter made one minor adjustment to his forward lines going into Saturday’s Game 2. He dropped Jason Chimera from the left side of a line with Backstrom and Alexander Semin to a wing position on a line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks and moved Johansson up to the second line with Backstrom and Semin.
For the second straight game in the playoffs, the Backstrom-centered line generated most of Washington’s shots on goal. The Chimera-Backstrom-Semin unit contributed six of the Capitals’ 17 shots on net in the series opener on Thursday and the Johansson-Backstrom-Semin trio notched 11 of the Caps’ 39 shots on Saturday.
Getting Them Through – Washington defensemen teed up 16 shots in Thursday’s Game 1, but only two of those shot bids found their way to the net. Ten of them were blocked and four missed the net altogether.
In Saturday’s Game 2, the six Washington blueliners took a total of 14 shots and managed to get 11 of them on goal. Two shot tries were blocked and one missed.
Can’t Keep a Good Man Down – Ovechkin has played 39 career Stanley Cup playoff games, and he has yet to go without a point in two consecutive contests. He picked up the primary assist on Brouwer’s goal to record his first point of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Leading Men – When Brouwer scored the first goal of the game at 17:57 of the second period, it was the Caps’ first lead of the series and the first time they had owned a lead in the previous 173 minutes and 52 seconds of playoff hockey, dating back to the third period of Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning last May.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears continued a weekend tour through New England with a 5-1 loss to the Monarchs in Manchester on Saturday, a night after a 6-4 setback to the Pirates in Portland.
The Bears close out the regular season on Sunday in Worcester. The 38-25-4-8 Bears have been struggling of late; they are 0-5-0-2 in their last seven games.
Hershey is locked into the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, and it will open the Calder Cup playoffs with a best-of-five series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Games 1 and 2 are Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The series shifts to Hershey’s Giant Center for Game 3 on Wed., April 25. If Game 4 is necessary, it would be played at Giant Center on Fri., April 27. A deciding fifth game would take place at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sat., April 28.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays dropped the first two games of their second-round Kelly Cup playoff series against the Kalamazoo Wings this weekend. The Wings took Game 1 by a 6-4 score on Friday night and won Game 2 on Saturday by a 4-1 count.
The series shifts back to North Charleston Coliseum on Wed., April 18 for Game 3.
By The Numbers – Mike Green led Washington with 33:28 in ice time on the afternoon. Fellow blueliners John Carlson (31:21), Karl Alzner (31:11) and Roman Hamrlik (30:55) all eclipsed the 30-minute mark for the game … Jay Beagle led the Caps with six shots on net … The Caps outhit the Bruins 41-36 on the day, with Brouwer’s six leading the way for Washington … Alzner led the way with five blocked shots. He also had five hits, three shots on net and was named the game’s No. 2 star … The Caps won 34 of 64 face-offs (53%) on the day. Beagle was 11-for-17 (65%) to pace the Caps … Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara skated 33:44 on the day, second to defense partner Dennis Seidenberg among all Bruins. Chara was not credited with a single hit in the game; Seidenberg had two. Chara teed up 10 shots in the game, getting four on net and having six blocked in front.