Down To The Wire – For the first five games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins, it was the Capitals that had difficulty holding leads in games, and the Bruins that had trouble holding a lead in the series.
In Sunday’s Game 6 at Verizon Center, the roles were reversed.
Tyler Seguin’s goal at 3:17 of overtime gave the Bruins a 4-3 win and evened the series at three games apiece, forcing a deciding Game 7 on the Bruins’ ice Wednesday night.
Washington entered Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close it out in front of the home folks. But for the first time since Game 1, the Caps were unable to score first and they were unable to get a lead at any point.
Three times Boston moved in front by a goal, and three times the Caps answered. But in the sudden death overtime, the Bruins had their legs, and the Capitals were sloppy and disjointed. Washington was charged with 14 giveaways on the day, and four of those came in overtime. The Caps were guilty of two icings in overtime, and they burned their timeout after the first one.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins pounced on a Nicklas Backstrom giveaway at the Washington line and two quick passes by David Krejci and Milan Lucic spring Seguin in all alone on Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
Seguin did the rest, outwaiting Holtby until the goalie committed and then patiently depositing the puck into the yawning cage.
“Nicky went to pass it to [Marcus Johansson] and it got knocked out of the air,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter of the game-deciding goal. “They turned it over back on us quickly, and Seguin with his speed went right through us. He made the play with his speed and he made a heck of a play on that goal.”
“I was going to hit Marcus there, but I missed the pass,” says Backstrom. “It was a bad turnover by me.”
“That’s a save I want to make,” rues Holtby of the Seguin game-winner. “I should have learned from the play before that on [Boston defenseman Zdeno] Chara that they were going to try to outwait like that if they had time. It’s my fault.”
Washington missed out on some glorious scoring chances of its own earlier in the game. Alex Ovechkin missed the net from the slot, Backstrom fanned on a timing play in front, and Johansson was unable to lift the puck over the stick of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to finish off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence.
Defensive breakdowns also plagued the Caps in Game 6, particularly on the last two Boston goals.
“Going into Game 7, we gave up too many chances,” laments Hunter. “We’ve got to work on our mistakes that we made.”
Washington will take Monday off before reconvening for practice on Tuesday, and then traveling to Boston for Wednesday’s Game 7 at TD Garden.
“We’ve been grinding it out every night down the stretch,” says Hunter. “Game 7 is a grinding kind of game. We’re used to playing it. And every game here has been a tough game. There have been six games, both sides are I imagine a little bit banged up. But they’re little bruises. They’ll forget about them come Game 7.”
Tight And Late – According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Caps-Bruins series is the first in NHL history to feature six straight one-goal games. Five of the six game-winning goals have come in the 59th minute of regulation or later in this series.
Each team has had one game-deciding tally in the final two minutes of regulation in this series; Chara for the Bruins in Game 3 and Troy Brouwer for the Capitals in Game 5. According to Elias, this is the first Stanley Cup playoff series in 17 years that has featured both teams with a game-winner in the final two minutes of regulation.
Pittsburgh’s Luc Robitaille scored in the final two minutes of Game 1 and New Jersey’s Scott Stevens turned the trick in Game 2 in a second-round series between the Penguins and the Devils in 1995.
Brouwer is just the second Capital ever to score a game-winning playoff goal in the final two minutes of regulation; Craig Laughlin did it against the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the Patrick Division final in 1984.
No Green Light – Caps defenseman Mike Green scored his first goal of the series in the first period to draw the Caps even at 1-1. The goal was Green’s first since Oct. 22 when he scored twice in a game against Detroit.
Green has played in 42 of Washington’s 43 playoff games over the last five postseasons, including 2012. He has averaged at least 25 minutes a night in each of the first three postseasons in which he played, dipping to 21:27 last spring because of injuries.
Green has averaged 23:03 per night this season, but logged just 17:03 tonight. More puzzling, Green was on the ice for just 48 seconds of Washington’s total of eight minutes in power play time in Game 6.
The Caps’ power play is 3-for-18 in the series and it was 0-for-4 in Game 6.
Washington defenseman Dennis Wideman logged 24:20 in Game 6, including 6:03 in power play time. Hunter was asked about the disparity between Green’s and Wideman’s minutes.
“I don’t know what their minutes were,” says the Caps coach. “It’s more the power play. We had Wideman more out on the power play than Green tonight. [Green] was on the second unit more than the first unit.”
Through the first six games of the series, Green has been on the ice for one even-strength goal against and two goals against while the Caps were shorthanded. The one even-strength goal against he was on for came in four-on-four play.
Wideman has been on the ice for eight of Boston’s 10 five-on-five goals in this series.
Green’s 13:41 in even-strength ice time in Game 6 was fifth among the six Washington defensemen.
Fourth Line – For the second straight game, the Capitals’ fourth line produced a goal. Mike Knuble scored the Caps’ third goal in their 4-3 win over the Bruins in Boston on Saturday, and the unit of Knuble, Keith Aucoin and Joel Ward were on the ice for Green’s goal.
Ward and Roman Hamrlik picked up the assists on Green’s goal.
Making Their Point – In the first three games of the series, Boston had a total of 28 shots on goal from its defensemen.
The Bruins got a combined total of 37 shots through from defensemen in Games 4 and 5, and just seven in Sunday’s Game 6.
Sunday’s total represented the lowest single-game total of shots from the blueline for Boston, but the B’s generated half their offense in Game 6 from the blueline.
Defenseman Andrew Ference scored on one of those shots; it was the go-ahead goal in the third period.
Also, Boston’s first goal came on a Rich Peverley deflection of a Ference point shot. Ference does not get credit for a shot on that play, just a primary assist.
Lineup Changes – Boston made its first lineup changes of the series for Game 6. Defenseman Joe Corvo sat out with an injury sustained in Saturday’s Game 5. Blueliner Mike Mottau replaced Corvo in the lineup, logging 9:21 in his first action of the series.
Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch for the Bruins. Jordan Caron was in the lineup for the first time in the series; he skated 4:56 over 10 shifts.
By The Numbers – The Capitals are now 8-12 in home overtime games … Karl Alzner led the Caps with 24:21 in ice time, one second more than Dennis Wideman … Ovechkin was on the ice for 7:39 of Washington’s eight minutes of power play time … Ovechkin led the Caps with seven shots on net … Jay Beagle led the Caps with six hits.