Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins in a regular season game.
Thursday night at TD Garden, the Capitals ended Boston’s five-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory on the road as Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in the third period prior to Alex Ovechkin adding the insurance goal (his second of the night) with the Bruins net empty as time ticked away in regulation.
Braden Holtby (17-10-2 record, 2.86 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 30 games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 SV% in the win for Washington and improved to 16-2 in 18 career games against Boston.
B’s netminder, Jaroslav Halak (13-7-2, 2.39 GAA, .924 SV% in 24 GP), made 18 saves on 21 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins are now 0-11-3 in their last 14 regular season games against Washington.
Boston falls to 25-15-4 (54 points) on the season and remains in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Capitals improved to 27-12-4 (58 points) so far this season and remain in 1st place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup, save for Halak getting the start over Tuukka Rask, based on the logic Cassidy used against the Anaheim Ducks last month (starting Halak in goal against a team the Bruins haven’t beaten in a while).
It worked against the Ducks. It didn’t against the Caps.
The moral of the story is it’s not the goaltender. It’s the overall effort of the team.
Boston’s scratches on Thursday night included Colby Cave and Steven Kampfer as healthy scratches, as well as Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body).
Cassidy indicated McAvoy could be back in the lineup on Saturday in Toronto, earlier in the day on Thursday.
Jonas Siegenthaler was guilty of holding Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, at 1:51 of the first period and was sent to the penalty box, resulting in Boston’s first power play of the night.
The Bruins did not convert on the skater advantage and the Caps swung momentum in their favor.
Jakub Vrana (15) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway resulting from T.J. Oshie‘s lead pass, which Vrana used to springboard himself in on a defenseless Halak, sniping the puck past Boston’s goaltender and giving Washington the lead, 1-0, at 6:38 of the first period.
Oshie (6) had the only assist on the goal.
Late in the opening frame, Marchand drew another penalty, this time when Michal Kempny tripped up the Bruins winger at 14:13.
The Capitals entered the dressing room for the first intermission with the lead, 1-0, while being outshot by Boston, 17-5. The Caps also led in blocked shots (8-2), giveaways (7-1) and hits (10-5), while the Bruins led in takeaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (53-47).
Washington had yet to see any time on the power play after one period, but Boston was already 0/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
Early in the second period, Patrice Bergeron tripped Vrana and gave Washington their first power play of the night at 5:10.
Shortly after their power play expired, Lars Eller received a two-minute minor infraction for unsportsmanlike conduct directed towards Marchand at 7:43 of the second period and the Bruins went on the power play for the third time Thursday evening.
Boston did not yield a goal on the skater advantage and shortly followed up with a penalty of their own as Brandon Carlo was penalized for tripping Ovechkin at 10:57.
The Bruins managed to kill off Carlo’s minor and surged enough in momentum to generate some zone time over the course of the vulnerable minute after Washington’s power play ended.
Torey Krug sent a pass to Ryan Donato as Donato was out high on his own from about the face-off circle to the left of Holtby.
The rookie Bruins winger settled the puck and fired his patented wrist shot past the Capitals goaltender to tie the game, 1-1, at 14:11 of the second period.
Krug (25) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (4) had the assists on Donato’s (6) goal, which set a new career-high for No. 17 in black-and-gold.
Less than a minute later, Ovechkin (31) found his revenge on the scoreboard as he sent a shot from close range past Halak’s short side as Tom Wilson found Ovechkin in the face-off circle to the right of the Bruins goalie.
Wilson (9) had the only assist on Ovechkin’s goal at 14:50 and the Caps led, 2-1.
In the dying seconds of the middle frame, former Bruin, Brett Connolly received a minor penalty for holding Krug at 19:52.
Boston’s ensuing power play would carry on into the third period, with the Capitals still in command of the scoreboard, 2-1, after 40 minutes of play.
The B’s led in shots on goal, 28-12, after two periods– outshooting Washington, 11-7, in the second period alone.
Washington led in blocked shots (13-7), giveaways (10-5) and hits (24-17) through two periods of action, while Boston led in takeaways (11-5) and face-off win% (62-38).
Entering the second intermission, the Capitals were 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/4.
After a bungled line change cost Washington a too many men on the ice bench minor at 3:58 of the third period, Capitals head coach sent Ovechkin to serve the penalty.
While Ovechkin was in the box, David Krejci (8) was scoring goals– a power play goal, blasted from the outer edge of the face-off circle to Holtby’s left, tying the game, 2-2, at 4:37 of the third.
Danton Heinen (7) and David Backes (8) notched the assists on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins looked like they might have enough confidence to get over their regular season slump against the Capitals, but Washington had other things in mind.
Backstrom (11) scored the game-winning goal, high, glove-side past Halak with a wrong-footed wrist shot at 5:46– just over a minute after Krejci tied the game for Boston.
Oshie (7) and Siegenthaler (4) had the assists on Backstrom’s goal as the Capitals took the lead, 3-2, in the final frame.
Down by a goal with about 1:39 remaining on the clock, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra skater, but four seconds later, Ovechkin (32) cleared the puck from his own zone into the empty net in Boston’s defensive end.
Ovechkin’s goal put the game away, 4-2, and was unassisted at 18:25. It was his second goal of the night and his 128th career two-goal game, as a result.
Halak vacated the net once more about 20 seconds later, but it was too little, too late, as the final horn sounded and the Capitals secured the win in Boston.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-22) and face-off win% (66-34), but Washington dominated the scoreboard, 4-2, and led in blocked shots (18-7), giveaways (14-6), as well as hits (32-25).
The Caps went 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s finished 1/5 on the skater advantage.
Boston travels to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs this Saturday night before heading back home for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Bruins then hit the road for the start of two games in two nights, starting with a Wednesday night game in Philadelphia against the Flyers before venturing back home to host the St. Louis Blues next Thursday. The B’s host the New York Rangers next Saturday (Jan. 19th) in their last game before the All-Star break.