For The Win – Growing up in Saskatchewan, Caps goalie Braden Holtby spent a good bit of his first 21 years dreaming of what his first NHL win would be like. While the rookie netminder has to feel like he is on top of the world after recording that initial NHL win in a 4-3 triumph over the Boston Bruins, he probably didn’t dreaming of it going down like it did.
Michal Neuvirth started in goal for the 12th time in 13 games for Washington on Friday night against the B’s, and he was perfect for the game’s first 40 minutes. More to the point, his teammates were close to perfect in front of him for those first two frames.
Boston had a mere three shots on goal in the first period and only six in the second. Neuvirth wasn’t tested like he has been in several of Washington’s early-season contests.
As was the case on Wednesday when Washington watched a 3-1 third-period lead morph into a 4-3 deficit against the visiting Maple Leafs, the Caps had some breakdowns early in the third. The Bruins went from sleepy to opportunistic, turning a 3-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie in a span of less than seven minutes in the first half of the third.
That’s when Caps coach Bruce Boudreau – who had called his timeout after the Bruins’ second strike – went to the bullpen and pulled Neuvirth in favor of Holtby.
Less than four minutes after the switch, defenseman John Carlson – Holtby’s roommate on the road – blasted the puck past Boston’s own relief netminder, Tuukka Rask. That tally made a winner out of Holtby.
“It’s pretty amazing,” says the Caps rookie netminder. “I was pretty shocked when Bruce told me, actually. It was kind of cool to go into a tight game; it definitely got the heart pumping. Glad Johnny could pull out a big shot for us and get the win.”
Putting a 21-year-old rookie into a tie game in the third period against one of the league’s top teams is a strong show of confidence, and Holtby didn’t let the boss down. He made four stops on four shots in 10:09 of work to earn that first NHL victory.
“With us I thought Neuvy didn’t look very good on goals two and three,” says Boudreau when asked about his reasoning behind the switch in goaltenders. “And he was looking over [to the bench]. Anytime a goalie is looking [to the bench] … I didn’t know if it was fair to Braden to put his first game in with 10 minutes to go against Boston in a tie game but he did outstanding.”
After a scoreless first, the Caps dominated the middle frame. Tyler Sloan scored his first of the season at the 59-second mark to give Washington the game’s first goal, a distinction it has achieved just four times in 13 starts in 2010-11.
Defenseman Mike Green – who had been missing from the lineup in each of Washington’s two losses to Boston earlier this season – dazzled with a brilliant goal at 7:35 to put the Caps up by a pair. Green took a pass from Alex Ovechkin, displayed his trademark poise and then dangled his way into position for a rifle of a wrist shot that beat B’s goaltender – and Caps nemesis – Tim Thomas.
The Bruins got a power play chance late in the second period, but Alexander Semin won a puck battle along the right wing wall, then broke up a pass at the Washington line to create a 2-on-1 with Green. The two played catch before Semin hammered one home from the bottom of the left wing circle to give the Caps a 3-0 lead.
Penalty trouble early in the third gave the Bruins a pair of power plays, and the visitors made good on both. Midway through the third, Washington had three skaters lose their footing almost simultaneously and the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton scored his second of the season on the resulting odd-man break.
Enter Holtby, and a few minutes afterwards, Carlson.
Washington has won three straight and five of its last six overall. The Capitals are 6-1 on Verizon Center ice this season.
“I feel great about the fact that we played tremendous the first two periods,” says Boudreau. “I’m not going to try to spin any negatives on this. That’s a great team and we shut them down with 11 or 12 [actually, nine] shots in [the first] two periods. They came out really hard in the third and they got two power play goals and a couple of breakdowns. Then we righted the ship and I don’t think they had more than one scoring chance after they tied it.”
Going Green – Green’s presence in the lineup made a difference in this one. He skated 25:43, blocked three shots, was plus-2 and had a goal and an assist.
Green has scored a goal in three straight games and also has a four-game scoring streak (three goals, four assists) in the works.
Pulled – Neuvirth and Thomas were a couple of the league’s hottest goalies coming into Friday night’s game, but neither was around at the finish. Neuvirth has been pulled twice this season, both times against Boston.
Washington became the first team in 2010-11 to score as many as three goals against Thomas, who avoided being saddled with his first loss of the season. He is 7-0 while Rask is 0-3.
Stingy With The Shots – For the second time in as many games, the Caps held the visiting team to just two shots on goal into the 15th minute of the first period. Toronto scored on its third shot in the 15th minute of Wednesday’s game. The B’s were held to just three shots in the first 20 minutes tonight, a single-frame low in shots for them this season and in shots against for the Caps in 2010-11.
Period Piece – The Caps have scored a dozen second-period goals in their last three games, and have allowed six against in the third period of their last two games.
Boston’s three third-period goals came on three consecutive shots tonight. Toronto scored three third-period goals against Washington on seven shots in Wednesday’s game.
O From the D – Defensemen scored three of Washington’s five goals on the night and blueliners were in on the scoring of all five Capitals goals on the night.
Mr. November -- Sloan’s goal was his first since Nov. 6, 2009 at Florida, a span of 40 games. Three of his four career goals have been scored in the month of November, and tonight’s tally was his first ever at Verizon Center.
Big Tree Fall Hard – Bruins blueliner Zdeno Chara has been extremely effective against the Caps since first donning the black and gold some years ago. But tonight he finished with a very un-Chara-like minus-4.
Powering Up – Washington has allowed just eight power play goals against in its 13 games this season. Boston has scored five of them in the three games between the two teams.
Boston had only three power plays in Friday’s game, and it cashed in on two of them. The Bruins needed only three power play shots to score those two extra-man goals.
By the Numbers – Chara led all skaters on both sides with 27:49 in ice time … David Steckel and John Erskine led the Caps with five hits each … Ten different players took face-offs for the Caps, and nine did so for Boston as the linesmen seemed intent on giving everyone a chance to take a face-off … Karl Alzner led the Caps with four blocked shots … Boyd Gordon led the Caps with a 67% rate in the face-off circle. His offensive zone win led to Carlson’s winning goal … Erskine was the only Capitals skater who did not record a shot on goal in Friday’s game.
1 - 0 WSH
2 - 0 WSH
3 - 0 WSH