One night after posting what Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien called “an important win” over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa, the Black and Gold faced off against the NHL’s number one team in the Washington Capitals at Washington. The Capitals proved why they are the League’s top team using their speed and strong goaltending from Braden Holtby to defeat the Bruins 5-3.
Per NHL Public Relations, the Capitals (34-11-6) extended their home point streak to 10 games (9-0-1) including eight consecutive wins.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz earned the 692nd win of his NHL coaching career. He is tied with Dick Irvin for sixth on the all-time NHL wins list.
Washington was led by Nicklas Backstrom’s three points (1 goal, 2 assists), TJ Oshie (1 goal, 1 assist) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 1 assist). Holtby turned aside 30 shots in recording the win.
Despite the loss, Boston’s Brad Marchand scored two goals and one assist and linemate David Pastrnak garnered three assists.
“I thought our puck management wasn’t great tonight,” Julien said following the game. “I thought we weren’t heavy enough to win this game tonight. We didn’t have enough players going so that kind of hurt us. Those are the areas, for me, really cost us.”
“Some guys have to step up and give us some offense. Our power play has been good but five-on-five we definitely have to be better. We can’t just rely on one line to score your goals every night.”
The first period was dictated by the Capitals’ speed but the Bruins were able to match it for short stretches and get their chances on Holtby but it was Washington’s Oshie that opened the scoring on this night when he scored his 19th of the season at 3:06. He was sent in alone after receiving an aerial pass (aka, saucer pass) from Backstrom in the neutral zone. Oshie, who is money in the bank when on a breakaway, beat Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask with a wrist shot between the pads.
Backstrom made if a 2-0 game at 13:34 of the period when he swooped in unattended from the high slot to put the rebound of Matt Niskanen’s slap shot from the left point behind Rask for his 14th marker of the year. Oshie drew the secondary assist on the play.
At this point in the contest, it appeared that Washington’s speed would be too much for Boston but the Bruins played a more disciplined defensive style for the remainder of the period and limited the Capitals to a smattering of shots on goal.
Boston’s power play has been very good as of late and it would continue to be good on this night. Brad Marchand scored on the man-advantage after Washington’s Brett Connolly checked Riley Nash with a high hit to the head and was sent to the penalty box at 17:59 of the period. Marchand responded with his 22nd goal of the season after Pastrnak carried the puck into the Caps’ zone before passing it to Bergeron on the right wing. Bergeron hit Marchand in the middle of the ice with a pass and the League’s fifth-leading scorer sent a high wrist shot past Holtby’s blocker with 1:24 to play in the period. The goal was the 175th of Marchand’s NHL career.
The Bruins carried their strong play over to the second period and tied the score at 2-2 with the second power play goal of the game by Marchand 2:49 into the period. Bergeron took possession of the puck near the Capitals’ blue line and sent it across the ice to Pastrnak in the left faceoff circle. Pastrnak found Ryan Spooner to the right side of Holtby’s net. Spooner collected his pass and threaded the needle with a pass to Marchand in front of the Washington net. Holtby could not get across his crease and Marchand only had to tap the disc into a gaping net for his 23rd goal of the year.
Marchand’s two goals gave him a League-leading seven multi-goal games this season and third in his last four games.
Boston appeared to be getting untracked but could not take the tie into the dressing room. Washington All-World forward Alex Ovechkin scored while Boston’s Brandon Carlo served a holding penalty. Ovechkin in his “office” at the bottom of the left faceoff circle in the Bruins’ zone, played pitch and catch with Matt Niskanen before unleashing a low, screened, wrist shot beating Rask under his glove putting Washington back on top 3-2 with 14 seconds to play in the period. Backstrom also garnered an assist when he moved the puck to Niskanen.
The lamplighter was the 25th goal of the season for Ovechkin and 550th of his NHL career. He ranks 27th on the all-time goals list. It was also his 205th career power play which saw him pass Wayne Gretzky into a tie for 15th with Joe Sakic on the all-time power play goals list.
Trailing 3-2 after two periods, the Bruins needed to score the next goal but it would go to the Capitals instead.
Former Bruin Connolly gave Washington a 4-2 lead 3:29 into the period with his ninth goal of the year. Kuznetsov brought the puck deep into Boston territory then passed back to Dmitry Orlov in the high slot. Orlov immediately sent the puck to his right to Connolly who skated between both Bruins defensemen and deposited a backhand into the net to Rask’s blocker side.
Kuznetsov found the back of the net for Washington at 15:53 of the period increasing his club’s lead to 5-2. Tom Wilson came up with a loose puck along the right wing boards, skated it toward the Boston net and passed to his left to Kuznetsov. The Russian forward then sent a wrist shot low to Rask’s blocker side for his 11th goal of the year.
As the minutes passed, the Bruins put on a push that resulted in David Krejci’s 13th goal of the season and a 5-3 score. He scooped up a rebound and with Holtby out of his crease, Krejci slid the disc into an empty net. Pastrnak and Marchand assisted on the goal.
With Rask pulled for an extra skater, the Bruins exerted heavy pressure on the Caps but Holtby sealed the net and held on for the win.
“We gotta keep playing every game the same way; playing on our toes, play to win, be determined,” Krejci said. “That’s the only way for us to win games.”
Adding insult to injury (literally), the Bruins lost Patrice Bergeron after he blocked a Niskanen slap shot with the inside of his right knee with 17:35 to play in the third period. He received assistance from the training staff to get to the team’s dressing room but returned for a shift before leaving the game for good after testing the knee during a timeout. After the game, Julien did not have an update on his star centerman saying they would know more on Thursday.
The Bruins (26-22-6) return to action Saturday in an Atlantic Division showdown with rival Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston’s TD Garden (7:00 pm ET).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.