The Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals, 5-1, Friday night at TD Garden after Capitals forward, Tom Wilson, delivered an unpenalized hit to the head of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, sparking an electric response on the scoreboard for Boston.
Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic each had a scrap with Wilson in a bout of “vigilante justice” because of one player that showed a lack of respect for “the code” and has once again threatened the career of another player with what is likely a head injury.
Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, had some strong words regarding Wilson’s hit during the first intermission, leading the New England Sports Network (NESN) to have to utilize a couple of drops to avoid facing scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
NESN aired Marchand’s interview in full after coming back from a break in the second period after the production truck had enough time to mute a pair of expletives.
Meanwhile, Jarsolav Halak (5-2-1, 2.24 goals against average, .913 save percentage in eight games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against for a .969 SV% in the win for the B’s.
Capitals goaltender, Vitek Vanecek (10-5-3, 2.83 GAA, .906 SV% in 19 games played) stopped 14 out of 18 shots faced for a .778 SV% in 35:43 time on ice before being replaced by Ilya Samsonov (2-0-1, 2.87 GAA, .877 SV% in four games played) made six saves on seven shots against (.857 SV%) for no decision in relief of Vanecek.
The Bruins improved to 13-5-3 (29 points) and moved into 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Caps fell to 13-6-4 (30 points) and 2nd place in the division.
Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand) on Friday.
Charlie Coyle, however, made his return from COVID protocol and as a result was reunited on the third line with Frederic on his left wing and Craig Smith on his right wing.
Jake DeBrusk was promoted to the right side of the second line, while Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner made up the fourth line.
Sean Kuraly joined John Moore as a healthy scratch, while Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen and Callum Booth were listed on the taxi squad.
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his defense.
Early in the opening frame, Charlie McAvoy tried to hit Garnet Hathaway, but bounced off the Washington forward as Hathaway anticipated and met McAvoy with an equal and opposing force.
McAvoy slammed against he boards by the bench and smacked the ice, yielding a quick trip down the tunnel for a cut above his right eye likely caused by his visor.
Late in the period, Marchand (11) snuck into the low slot and received a pass from Patrice Bergeron before sending a backhand shot over Vanecek’s glove to give Boston the game’s first goal.
Bergeron (13) and McAvoy (13) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 14:21 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, Coyle yielded the first power play of the game to the Capitals after he caught Dmitry Orlov with a slash at 14:42.
Washington was not able to convert on their first skater advantage of the night.
Moments later, Wilson made a couple of runs at Frederic, catching the ire of the young Bruins forward.
Then Wilson caught Carlo up high in the corner to Rask’s right side behind the goal line with enough force to bash Carlo’s head off the glass before Jakub Vrana delivered a shift cross check above the shoulders while Carlo immediately clutched the sides of his head and collapsed in a heap.
Wagner grabbed Wilson as every remaining skater one the ice paired up.
There was no penalty on the call, which left Cassidy visibly irate on the bench and others on Boston’s bench audibly displeased.
Wilson was a free man and the threshold– as well as potential for more chaos– was established. In simple terms, it was the most glaring example of what not to do as an on-ice official.
It might not have been charging, but it could’ve been boarding.
It might not have been immediately clear that there was head contact or that Carlo was in a vulnerable position– let alone that Wilson had plenty of time and space to deliver and proper body check, but instead the refs made no call and implied that, in return, Wilson was free game.
Not only was player safety compromised for Carlo, but it would be compromised for Wilson too in the eyes of retribution if it had reared its head.
Let alone the next player Wilson might go on to hit.
Regardless, the Bruins entered the first intermission taking not only a hit to their defense, but a dent in their momentum, despite leading, 1-0, on the scoreboard.
Washington led, 12-8, in shots on goal, as well as in giveaways (5-2) and hits (12-6), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3).
Both teams had three takeaways. The two clubs were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage.
The Capitals were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Boston tweeted that Carlo (upper body) would not return to Friday night’s action before the second period began.
Brenden Dillon was penalized for roughing 20 seconds into the second period after a stoppage in play and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night.
Boston did not score on the resulting skater advantage.
Moments later, Tinordi squared off in an exchange of fisticuffs with Wilson– marking the first of two fights of the night featuring No. 43 in a Capitals road uniform.
Each player received five-minute fighting majors at 6:12 of the second period.
It was the eighth fight this season for Boston and the first since Nick Ritchie fought Brendan Lemieux at 20:00 of the third period at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Feb. 28th.
While Wilson was in the box, Frederic (3) redirected a shot pass from McAvoy into the open twine as Vanecek was screened by net front traffic.
McAvoy (14) and Smith (5) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to two-goals, 2-0, at 6:43 of the second period.
Wilson was still in the box as Boston’s first line worked its magic on a “tic-toc-goal” at 9:01, extending their lead to three-goals thanks to Bergeron (9).
David Pastrnak (10) and Marchand (15) notched the assists on Bergeron’s goal as the B’s took a, 3-0, lead.
Late in the period, Marchand (12) added his second goal of the game while on the doorstep of the crease behind the Washington netminder as Vanecek wasn’t able to track another close range shot pass that made it, 4-0, Boston.
Matt Grzelcyk (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s second of the night at 14:58.
Caps head coach, Peter Laviolette, made the decision to replace Vanecek with Samsonov thereafter.
The Bruins went into the second intermission with a four-goal lead and a, 10-8, advantage in shots in the second period alone, despite trailing the Capitals, 20-18, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.
Boston led in blocked shots (8-6) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Washington held the advantage in takeaways (8-7), giveaways (11-6) and hits (25-18).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the final frame.
David Krejci found Ritchie (8) for a one-timer goal past Samsonov’s glove to kick things off at 1:05 of the third period, extending Boston’s lead to five-goals.
Krejci (11) and DeBrusk (4) tabbed the assists as the Bruins led, 5-0.
Seconds later, Frederic and Wilson dropped the gloves with the first-year Boston forward wracking up an instigator minor and an automatic 10-minute misconduct to go along with his five-minute fighting major.
Wilson managed to accrue fewer penalty minutes for knocking someone out of the game with a high hit to the head (zero) than he did in his second fight of the night (five).
Smith served Frederic’s instigating minor at 1:12 of the third period and the Capitals did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Wilson and Frederic’s fight marked the ninth fighting major of the season for Boston.
Moments later, T.J. Oshie caught Pastrnak with a high stick at 3:27, but the B’s did not score on the resulting 5-on-4 advantage.
A little past the midpoint of the third period, Vrana (8) sniped a shot from the faceoff dot on a catch and release play past Halak’s blocker side disrupting the shutout in the process.
Nicklas Backstrom (16) and Oshie (10) nabbed the assists as the Capitals trailed, 5-1, at 13:36 of the third period.
Backstrom, meanwhile, earned his 700th career assist with the primary assist on the goal and became the first player in Washington’s franchise history to reach the 700-assist plateau.
No. 19 for the Caps was a first-year player back in 2007-08, and has spent his entire 979-game career with Washington– the team that drafted him 4th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft.
After another scrum that featured current Capitals defender, Zdeno Chara, being restrained by current Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, Wagner caught No. 33 for the Caps with a slash at 18:40 in the dying minutes of Friday night’s action.
Wagner cut a rut to the penalty box, while Washington couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage to close out the game.
At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-1, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 32-25, including a, 12-7, advantage in the third period alone for Washington.
The Bruins also wrapped up the night’s action leading in blocked shots (9-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Capitals ended the 60-minute effort leading in giveaways (15-8) and hits (34-22).
Washington went 0/3 and Boston went 0/2 on the power play on Friday as the Bruins handed the Caps their most lopsided loss of the season– snapping the Capitals’ four-game winning streak in the process.
Carlo was taken to a local hospital by ambulance after being hit by Wilson.
After the game, Cassidy offered his thoughts on Wilson’s hit.
“You can see it,” he told reporters via Zoom, “He hits him in the head. [It was a] [p]redatory hit from a player who’s done that before.”
Cassidy continued, “We felt it was completely unnecessary, dirty,” and added that he didn’t know whether Carlo was going to stay overnight in the hospital or even if he had been concussed at that point.
“You can probably make your own call on that one, considering the hit was directly to his head.”
Laviolette offered a different point of view, explaining (neither in defense, nor in terms of throwing his own player under the bus),
“I saw the hit. His feet were on the ice, he stayed down with everything. Just looked like a hard hit in the corner. Not exactly sure what happened, but to me, it looked like just a hit.”
Laviolette also mentioned after the game that he hadn’t received any indication that the league would be wanting to talk to Wilson about the hit on Carlo.
Bruins newcoming defender in just his second game with the club since being claimed off waivers on Sunday, Tinordi called the hit “risky” and added, “You’ve got to hold up there.”
“That’s what I noticed about this team as soon as I got here. The boys are playing for each other night in and night out,” Tinordi observed of his new teammates, remarking on Bergeron’s tap of the glass in front of him after scoring a goal while Tinordi sat in the penalty box having just fought Wilson.
“We did the job and took care of business on the ice,” Marchand told reporters after the game.
“If the refs are able to look at [Wilson’s hit on Carlo on video review], that’s a suspension and he’s gone from the game,” Marchand continued, “We can review if a guy’s foot is half an inch offside, but we can’t review a headshot.”
“I’ve been guilty of it in the past. But it is something you don’t wanna see happen. But he was in a bad spot and Wilson took advantage.”
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, meanwhile, have 437-563–1,003 combined totals in the last five years– becoming just one of two trios in the league in that span to collect over 1,000 combined points, joining Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers in doing so.
The Bruins improved to 9-2-1 (5-0-1 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal this season, while the Capitals fell to 5-3-2 (2-2-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal in 2020-21.
The B’s also improved to 7-0-0 (4-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 8-0-0 (5-0-0 at home) when leading after the second period this season.
Washington, meanwhile, fell to 2-4-1 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-0 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.
Boston finishes up their three-game homestand (1-0-1) on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils before hitting the road for one game on Long Island next Tuesday against the New York Islanders.