Capitals forward Justin Williams scored two goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the Bruins. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)
A year ago, and two years ago for that matter, an 0-3 deficit against Braden Holtby and the Capitals is a death sentence. But Wednesday night in Washington proved that this year’s Bruins team is an entirely different squad than the two disappointments that came before.
In an 0-1 hole just 23 seconds into the first period on an odd bounce from Capitals forward Justin Williams, the Capitals extended their lead to 2-0 just seven minutes later on another bizarre bounce that worked against Tuukka Rask and for Williams for the second time in the period. In what was an insane shooting gallery of a first period against the 29-year-old Rask, the Bruins escaped the opening frame down by just two, though it rightfully felt like seven given their competition in the opposite crease, known as the B’s boogeyman.
Daniel Winnik seemingly closed the book on the Bruins, too, behind the third Caps goal of the contest, scored just 5:51 into the middle frame to put D.C. up by three goals and with the Bruins having to score the same amount of goals they scored in their previous 330-plus minutes of hockey against Holtby just to escape with at least one point.
And guess what? Somehow, someway, the Bruins did just that.
Led by a stretch that saw the Bruins hold the Capitals without a shot on goal for 23 full minutes and fired about 18 shots on their own in a row on Holtby in the process, the Bruins found a way back into this contest.
It began with a Dominic Moore goal scored at the 16:35 mark of the second period, and then a beautiful David Pastrnak breakaway goal followed that just 2:25 later, and the Black and Gold were down by just one after two periods. And after two fruitless power-play opportunities, the Bruins broke through on their third power play of the night, as a Colin Miller blast fired with just two seconds left in the man advantage beat Holtby at the 8:19 mark off a sweet dish from Austin Czarnik.
But the B’s bid for their first three-goal comeback since Oct. 2009 was put to bed in the three-on-three overtime frame, as Nicklas Backstrom beat Rask through the wickets just 1:36 into the overtime for the Caps’ seventh straight victory over the B’s.
Here are four other things we learned in the comeback loss for the Bruins
Claude Julien puts defensive pairings in blender
Down two goals early, Bruins head coach Claude Julien decided to mess with his defensive pairings in search of just, well, anything different. Off the top pairing went Brandon Carlo, up to the top pairing went Adam McQuaid, and together went the puckmoving pair of Torey Krug and Colin Miller. And in case that reads back as a mess, the Bruins put McQuaid with Zdeno Chara while Kevan Miller skated to the left of Carlo. This was, well, it was something.
It’s worth noting that Carlo and Miller did play together in Chara’s absence (same for Krug and Miller at certain points), and while they were exposed on the Caps’ third goal, they were otherwise solid.
But putting Chara and McQuaid on the same pairing is something that has seemingly worked with very little success for the Black and Gold. There’s just too much defense and not enough of a pushback the other way. You saw that at times Wednesday, as well, but overall, the pairings did seem to work in the interim, and helped keep the Capitals at bay in the B’s comeback push.
Still, these are not combos I’d necessarily be thrilled to see together tomorrow night.
Anton Blidh records first NHL point
It took just three games for Anton Blidh to get on the board with the first point of his NHL career. Recalled from the P-Bruins last Friday and skating in a fourth-line role with Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes, Blidh has been relied upon to come through with a strong forechecking presence, and anything more than that is just a bonus.
That bonus came through with the B’s first goal of the night, too, when Blidh’s shot squeaked through Holtby’s pads and was tucked home by Dominic Moore (really, Moore vultured Blidh out of his career goal) at the 16:35 mark of the second period.
Down Noel Acciari and Matt Beleskey, Blidh has also provided some nastiness to the forward corps, and his ability to get under the opponent’s skin, like he did on the Tom Wilson penalty that led to the game-tying goal, is coming more each game.
Power play snaps out of funk
A strength of the Bruins a year ago, the Black and Gold power play has been anything but this season.
And that remained the case in the Bruins’ fifth straight 0-for on the man advantage, too. Entering play mired in an 0-for-13 stretch, and 1-for-18 stretch overall, the Bruins put forth a mild, 0-for-2 night with just two power-play shots fired on Braden Holtby through the first two periods of the game in this one. That’s just flatout not good enough.
It’s hard to dissect exactly what’s gone wrong for the B’s power play, and specifically their first unit, for most of this season. The obvious answer would be that teams have adjusted to a lot of things that they did a year ago — it’s almost impossible for Patrice Bergeron to get clean shots off from his usual ‘bumper’ role like he did en route to 12 power-play goals a year ago — and the most noticeable personnel difference, which is David Backes in place of the departed Loui Eriksson. But is that enough for a seven percent dip from the club’s 20 percent success rate from a year ago? Apparently so.
The Bruins did finally break through on their third opportunity of the night, from the second power-play unit, when Colin Miller’s bomb tied things up 3-3 in the third period. So, at least that’s a thing the B’s can celebrate. Small victories.
Bruins extend point streak to six games
OK, so it’s not a win in the standings. But it’s a moral victory if there’s ever been one.
Down three goals midway through the second period, the Bruins scratched and clawed their way to a point for their sixth consecutive contest (4-0-2) and now have seized 10 of a possible 12 points over that stretch. It’s been far from the prettiest hockey — the Bruins have frequently had to either dig out of a significant hole late or fend off a furious counterattack the other way in the third period — but the Bruins are finding ways to steal points and against some quality competition no less.
The B’s have a quick turnaround and will square off with the Avalanche tomorrow night in Boston.