David Pastrnak had a pair of goals, while Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal late in the third period as the Boston Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals, 4-3, Thursday night at TD Garden.
Linus Ullmark (14-5-0, 2.55 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 20 games played) made 14 saves on 17 shots faced in the win for Boston.
Washington goaltender, Vitek Vanecek (8-5-5, 2.57 goals-against average, .909 save percentage in 20 games played) stopped 29 out of 33 shots against in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 23-12-2 (48 points) overall and remain 4th in the Atlantic Division, while the Capitals fell to 22-10-9 (53 points) on the season and fell to 4th place in the Metropolitan Division.
With one game remaining against Washington this season on April 10th in Washington, D.C., the B’s have already clinched the regular season series 2-0-0.
Nick Foligno returned to the lineup after missing his 13th game this season due to injury and/or an illness, having most recently sustained a lower body injury on Jan. 8th in a, 5-2, win in Tampa.
As a result, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, placed Foligno on the third line right wing in place of Oskar Steen– scratching the Boston rookie in the process– at least for the night.
The B’s were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Trent Frederic (upper body), John Moore (upper body) and Mike Reilly (COVID-19 protocol) on Thursday.
No other changes were made to the lines of defensive pairings against Washington.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, Steven Fogarty and Kyle Keyser were reassigned from the taxi squad to the Providence Bruins (AHL).
Tyler Lewington joined Steen in the press box as Boston’s pair of healthy scratches against the Capitals, while Reilly, Frederic, Moore and Zboril were out due to injury and/or COVID protocol.
Evgeny Kuznetsov (13) kicked things off with a toe drag snap shot over Ullmark’s shoulder on the blocker side– off the crossbar and into the twine– at 4:07 of the first period.
Alex Ovechkin (29) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (10) tallied the assists on Kuznetsov’s goal as the Capitals jumped out to a, 1-0, lead early in the opening frame.
It wasn’t long (50 seconds to be exact), however, before the Bruins tied things up, 1-1, courtesy of a goal from Pastrnak (17) as No. 88 in black and gold entered the attacking zone, dropped a pass back for Taylor Hall, then proceeded to crash the net and redirected a pass behind Vanecek’s right pad for the goal.
Hall (18) and Erik Haula (10) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 4:57 of the first period.
Midway through the opening frame, Hall was caught Kuznetsov with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 8:14, yielding the night’s first power play to Washington.
The Caps weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the first period, Brad Marchand tripped up Nick Jensen and cut a rut to the box at 14:22. Once again, however, the Capitals let the resulting power play go by the wayside.
Shortly thereafter, Tom Wilson delivered a huge, clean, hit on Anton Blidh– knocking the fourth liner out of the game with an upper body injury.
Wilson led with his shoulder and caught Blidh’s chest first, but still drew the ire of Bruins skaters as they watched their teammate get help off the ice from a trainer.
McAvoy responded minutes later with a big hit on van Riemsdyk behind Washington’s own net.
The temperature of the action on the ice, though, was notably rising.
After 20 minutes of action, the B’s and Caps were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Bruins outshooting the Capitals by a 2:1 ratio (10-5).
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4), giveaways (5-2), hits (15-10) and faceoff win percentage (61-39), while Washington led in takeaways (4-2).
The Capitals were 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.
Boston later tweeted before the middle frame began that Blidh (upper body) would not return to the night’s action.
Haula hooked Connor McMichael and cut a rut to the sin bin at 4:33 of the second period as a result.
Shortly after killing off Haula’s minor, the Bruins went on their first power play of the night thanks to Garnet Hathaway’s interference infraction at 6:48– although it came with a price as Hathaway nearly charged and ran Marchand into boards– leaving the Boston winger clutching his shoulder before eventually making his way down the tunnel.
Marchand, as with Blidh and Jensen, would join the growing list of players with upper body injuries that were confirmed not to return to the game on Thursday night by the end of the second intermission.
While Hathaway was in the box, the Bruin took their time to capitalize on the skater advantage and score a power-play goal as Pastrnak (18) broke free on a drive to the net and followed up his own rebound– slipping the rubber biscuit through Vanecek in the process.
Matt Grzelcyk (13) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s power-play goal and Boston led, 2-1, at 8:37 of the second period.
About four minutes later, Craig Smith went to the box for tripping Hathaway, but the Capitals couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play at 12:38.
Late in the middle frame, Lars Eller (7) entered the attacking zone and floated a shot from the left faceoff dot off of Ullmark’s glove and into the top right corner of the net– knotting things up, 2-2, in the process.
McMichael (7) had the only assist on a goal that Ullmark probably wishes he had back at 16:12 of the second period.
Heading into the second intermission, the score was tied, 2-2, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 20-11, including a, 10-6, advantage in the second period alone.
Washington led in takeaways (8-4) and hits (29-20), while the B’s held the advantage in giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (58-42).
Both teams had nine blocked shots each, while the Caps were 0/4 and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play.
Kuznetsov slashed Pastrnak to kick things off at 5:17 of the third period, but Boston couldn’t beat Vanecek on the ensuing power play.
Almost midway through the third period, however, Jake DeBrusk (6) slipped a shot through Vanecek’s five-hole that had eyes as the Vulcanized rubber trickled over the goal line before a Capitals defender fished it out and play kept going without skipping a beat.
Until the horn sounded to signal that the replay booth in the NHL’s Toronto offices had deemed a goal had been scored at 9:41 of the third period.
DeBrusk’s goal gave Boston a, 3-2, lead and was unassisted.
Less than a minute later, however, Nicklas Bäckström (1) wired his first goal of the season (after having missed most of the season due to rehabbing an injury) on a shot from afar in the attacking zone after Brandon Carlo and the rest of his Boston teammates failed to clear the puck.
Wilson (17) had the only assist on Bäckström’s goal as Washington tied things up, 3-3, at 10:17– just 36 seconds after DeBrusk’s goal.
Late in the third, Nic Dowd tripped Derek Forbort and presented Boston with another power play at 17:26.
In the dying seconds of the ensuing skater advantage, Haula worked the puck to DeBrusk, who whipped a pass back to McAvoy at the point.
McAvoy (6) sent a wrist shot over Vanecek’s blocker high on the short side while pinching into the zone to give Boston a, 4-3, lead at 19:15 of the third period.
DeBrusk (6) and Haula (11) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s power-play goal that went on to serve as the game-winner as the Caps failed to score with the goaltender pulled shortly after the ensuing faceoff at center ice.
With less than a minute remaining, Peter Laviolette, tried everything he could to rally Washington to one more tie, but it was to no avail as the final horn sounded– signaling a victory in Boston’s favor.
The Bruins had won, 4-3, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 33-17, and even had a, 13-6, advantage in shots in the third period alone.
Boston also left their own building leading in blocked shots (17-14), giveaways (10-7) and faceoff win% (55-45) on Thursday night, while Washington exited with the advantage in hits (36-27).
The Capitals went 0/4 and the Bruins went 2/3 on the power play.
Boston improved to 8-7-2 (5-4-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-5-1 (2-3-0 at home) when tied after one period and 4-2-0 (4-1-0 at home) when tied after two periods this season.
Washington fell to 17-8-4 (8-5-2 on the road) when scoring first, 7-5-3 (6-3-2 on the road) when tied after the first period and 7-1-2 (3-1-0 on the road) when tied after the second period in 2021-22.
The Bruins (4-1-0) host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday before the B’s wrap up their current seven game homestand against the Anaheim Ducks next Monday prior to hitting the road for three games with stops in Colorado, Arizona and Dallas to close out the month of January.