On The Ropes – Holding a lead in games has proven difficult for the Washington Capitals in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins. Holding a lead in the series has proven problematic for the Bruins.
Troy Brouwer’s power-play goal with 1:27 left in the third gave the Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Bruins in Boston in Saturday’s Game 5.
“I like the way the guys have been playing in the games,” says Brouwer. “Even last game, we were playing well. Tonight, to be able to come into a tough building and get another win, we put ourselves in a good situation going back to our building and especially in a quick turnaround. We have some confidence and we have some momentum.”
With the win, Washington has become the first team to win consecutive contests in the series and the Caps have taken their first lead in the series. On Sunday, they can close out the defending Stanley Cup champions with a win in Game 6 at Verizon Center.
“It’s pretty obvious how big it was,” says Caps right wing Joel Ward. “There was resiliency and we were relentless all night. Even though they kept coming back I thought it was great for us. There is good character in the room to keep fighting that way. We’re excited with the position we’re in and hoping to close it out tomorrow.”
About three-quarters of the 324 minutes and 14 seconds of hockey these two clubs have been played with the score tied. Late in the second period of Saturday’s Game 5, the Caps finally forged the first two-goal lead either club has enjoyed at any point in the series.
It didn’t last long.
Less than three minutes (2:54, to be exact) after Jay Beagle’s goal gave Washington a 2-0 lead, Boston’s Dennis Seidenberg halved that lead with a wrister from inside the blueline along the right wing wall. And just 28 seconds after that strike, the Bruins drew even at 2-2 when Brad Marchand hammered one through Caps goalie Braden Holtby from the top of the paint.
The Capitals went back on top on Mike Knuble’s goal early in the third period. Knuble put back a rebound of a Ward shot.
“Just trying to make a simple play,” says Ward, “just trying to go wide and trying to get it on net for a rebound. Obviously Mike’s a big, strong man. He just kind of carried it in and it was a good play for sure.”
That lead lasted less than six minutes; it vanished when Boston’s Johnny Boychuk scored on a Bruins’ power play at 8:47 to make it a 3-3 game.
Washington got a power play of its own late in the period when Boston forward Benoit Pouliot was sent off for slashing. Brouwer cruised down the right wing wall and beat Thomas with a wrist shot that went short side, glove side.
“I saw the [defenseman] kind of turn to the middle of the ice,” says Brouwer. “I had a lane and I just went down and took the shot. Our power play was struggling a little bit just before that, but guys worked hard and it was a good finish.”
Boston led the series 1-0 and 2-1, and now the Caps own their first series lead in the tightly played and hotly contested set.
“Both teams really want to win bad,” says Ward. “We were fortunate to get the last one. I think it shows a lot about this team here and how we stuck together, drew a big penalty and things were created at the end. Brouw made an unbelievable shot.”
The Capitals are now 3-7 in Game 5 in series in which they’ve been even at 2-2 after the first four games. Each of the first two times they won Game 5 in such situations, they closed out the series with a win in Game 6 on home ice. The first of those instances was Washington’s first-round series against New Jersey in 1990 and the second was a first-round series win over the New York Rangers in 1991.
Late Thunder – Four of the five game-winning goals in this series have come at the 18:07 mark of the third period or later, with two of those tallies coming in overtime.
“Both teams are out there battling real hard, and there’s a lot of skill on both sides,” says Brouwer. “They’re working hard and both goalies are playing real well. Right now it just seems to be whoever can get a late goal is going to move on and get the win in the game.”
Leading Men – When Beagle scored at 14:27 of the second, it gave the Caps the first two-goal lead either team had owned at any point in the series, which had spanned 298 minutes and 41 seconds to that point.
Unfortunately for the Capitals, that bountiful advantage lasted all of 2:54.
When Boston’s Brad Marchand scored the Bruins’ second goal in a span of 28 seconds to even the game at 2-2 late in the second period, it marked the fifth time that the Bruins were able to bounce back and erase a Washington lead in this series.
Boychuk’s third-period tally made it six times that Boston has erased a Washington lead in the last four games.
A total of 324 minutes and 14 seconds of hockey have been played in this series, and the score has been tied for 235 minutes and nine seconds of that time (72.6%). Washington has led for 74:14 and Boston for 14:51. All of the Bruins’ lead time came in Game 3.
Carry Fourth – For the second straight game, Washington’s fourth line put together a strong performance. Although the threesome of Knuble, Ward and Keith Aucoin each played less than 10 minutes in the game, they generated some scoring chances and had a combined total of four shots on goal while contributing to the attack with Knuble’s goal.
“It is great,” says Ward. “[Knuble] brings that consistent work ethic and size. I’m able to read off him and Coiner and try to get pucks in deep. We definitely rely on him and believe in him and are making good plays. We were fortunate to get one.”
Knuble’s 56 career Stanley Cup playoff games are tops among all Washington forwards.
“There’s no better feeling,” says the veteran forward of scoring in the playoffs. “There aren’t too many things that happen in life – maybe the birth of your kids – that are better than scoring a goal in a playoff game, or any goal in the NHL. You’re not going to be doing it forever, so when they do happen you’re happy. You’re happy that it came at a good time to get one, in the third period.”
First Things First – Today marked the fourth consecutive game in this series in which Washington netted the game’s first goal. The Bruins scored the game’s first goal in Game 1, but it took them until the second minute of overtime to do it.
Of the 10 Boston goals in this series, seven have been scored after the midway point of the second period.
Line Item Adjustments – With the game scoreless in the middle of the second period, Caps coach Dale Hunter made an adjustment that had a ripple effect on three of his forward lines.
Hunter moved Marcus Johansson from the first line to the second, sliding Jason Chimera from the second to the third and Brouwer from the third to the first.
The effect was quick and positive. Within just a few shifts, Washington had taken the first lead of the game.
“He’s just trying to find the optimal amounts of defense and offense on lines and make sure that everyone is being responsible out there,” says Brouwer, “especially in these tight games because one goal late in games hasn’t been holding up as of late. He’s doing what he needs to do to try and win games.”
Water In The Desert – Boychuk’s power-play goal in the third period ended an 0-for-35 run by the Boston extra-man unit in the first round of the last two playoffs. The Bruins were 0-for-21 on the power play in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens, and they were 0-for-14 this spring against the Caps before Boychuk found the range today.
On The Board – Beagle, Ward, Knuble, Dennis Wideman, John Erskine and John Carlson each picked up their first point of the playoffs in today’s Game 5.
Sixteen of the 20 skaters the Caps have deployed in the series have at least one point.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears fell into an 0-2 hole in their first-round Calder Cup series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday, dropping a 7-2 road decision. Game 3 of the best-of-five series is at Giant Center in Hershey on Wednesday night.
Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were eliminated from Kelly Cup contention on Saturday when the Kalamazoo Wings won a 5-1 decision from the Stingrays at North Charleston Coliseum. The Wings won the best-of-seven set in five games.
By The Numbers – Carlson led all Capitals with 25:05 in ice time … Backstrom led all Washington forwards with 20:33 of work … Alex Ovechkin skated 15:34, the lowest single-game total for any of his 42 career playoff games … Ovechkin led the Caps with five hits and five shots on goal. With 26 hits in the playoffs, Ovechkin ranks third in the NHL … Thirteen of the 18 Washington skaters blocked at least one shot, led by three each from Carlson and Karl Alzner … Eighteen of Boston’s 37 shots on goal came from its defensemen. Including Game 4, 37 of the Bruins’ last 82 shots have come from blueliners … Andrew Ference led the B’s with seven shots on net … Zdeno Chara led the Bruins with six hits … Chara teed up 13 shots on the day, but got only three on goal. Seven were blocked, and three missed.