What a difference a day—or five—makes. Just five days ago the Washington Capitals came to TD Garden and beat the Boston Bruins 4-2. Alex Ovechkin scored two power play goals during that game at 18:39 of the first period and then again at 2:24 of the second.
Watching the Capitals as they played against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday evening, once the Capitals began to score, it was a result of their being on the power play, with the second of their three power play goals coming from Ovechkin.
Despite their loss in Philadelphia, they were expected to come into TD Garden and have their way with the Bruins again. However, someone forgot to tell the Bruins that—especially goalie Tuukka Rask. But perhaps even more importantly, someone forgot to tell the Capitals that was the game plan.
In fact, at the end of the first period, while the score was tied at zero, the shots on goal were 10-4 in favor of the Bruins. While the Bruins seemed to struggle a little with their passing, when they did connect they were off and running, throwing puck after puck at the Capitals starting goal tender Braden Holtby.
Unlike the matinee meeting five days before—which had its fair share of penalties, the only time the men in black and white blew their whistles Thursday night was to signal an offside or an icing. This allowed the Bruins to keep the momentum—running a clinic on the Bruins system for anyone who wanted to take notes.
Two goals would be scored by the Bruins in the second period, the first by “Merlot Line” member Gregory Campbell (assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Matt Bartkowski) just 3:05 into that period. A little more than five minutes later, Loui Eriksson (who sat out Tuesday night, causing rampant speculation that he would be traded the following day before the deadline) scored his seventh, assisted by Carl Sodeberg and Kevan Miller. At the end of that period, the score showed 2-0 but the shots on goal (27-8) in favor of the Bruins showed a much different story.
While Holtby had struggled the evening before against the Flyers, being pulled after allowing four goals in roughly 30 minutes of play, he didn’t let that bother him as he started in net against the Bruins. In fact, when the game was done, Holtby’s confidence must have been right back up in the 99th percentile, as he stopped 40 of the 42 shots he saw.
And it wasn’t until the third period that there appeared to be any real life in the Capitals, just as happened to them in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. The Capitals—who only tallied 16 shots on the entire evening against Rask—actually had eight of those in the third. So what was it about that period?
The Pink Puck asked Capitals defenseman, Karl Alzner, one of the six players who did not finish the game with a minus, afterwards, what was going on.
“The frustration finally gets us,” he said. “The frustration should be there from the start. It seems to be taking 40 minutes for us to finally figure it out.”
They indeed did seem to take awhile to figure out that they needed to bring their game. The Bruins, who not only brought their hockey game, but brought the Bruins style of playing to full life, were putting it to them. The Bruins were keeping the Capitals to the outside, but perhaps more importantly weren’t even letting the Capitals do anything with the puck if they were lucky enough to find they had it. If you totaled the shots on goal with the blocked attempts and the blocked shots, the Bruins had an impressive 67 shots to the 32 by the Capitals.
“We have to get madder from the start,” Alzner exclaimed. “We should be mad because we’re not winning and we’re not in the playoff picture. We need to take that anger out on the teams right away.”
And perhaps no one should be more frustrated than Ovechkin, whose 20 shifts on ice totaling 16:43 in playing time resulted in just a single—yes, that’s one—shot on goal in the entire game. During their game against the Flyers, he had one less minute of playing time, but he managed to get 4 shots on goal, scoring one power play goal.
This was almost a “Where’s Ovechkin” nightmare for Capitals fans.
After the game, The Pink Puck asked Bruins defenseman, Bartkowski, if the team had talked about keeping Ovechkin off the puck and not allowing him time and space to shoot.
“It’s mainly [Zdeno Chara’s] responsibility because he takes the burden of Ovechkin throughout the game,” he answered. “But anybody who is out there against [Ovechkin], we just know to be aware of where his is and not go out of your way to take him out of the play. Just play your game. Play our system.”
When it was pointed out to Bartkowski, by The Pink Puck, that the team had held Ovechkin to just a single shot on goal in the entire game, he seemed a little surprised by that statistic.
“That’s gotta be a season low for him, I guess,” he laughed.
Indeed, it must have been a new sensation for the league-leading goal scorer, and something that Ovechkin wishes never to experience again.
Maybe it was the emotion of having Mark Recchi in the arena for a ceremonial puck drop as part of the 90 Years celebrations. Maybe it was that those who had played with Recchi wanted to show him they were still that tough band of brothers who took the Stanley Cup away from the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. Whatever the reason, it was clear that the team was in sync and that all lines were not only moving, but fore-checking and back-checking and on full speed to a win.
As the clock began to count down to those final few minutes the “S” word (yes, shutout) began to bounce around in fans’ minds as it looked like Rask—who continued to do a great job when called upon—would get his sixth shutout of the season (and 22nd of his career) when the final buzzer sounded. And indeed he did, putting him in first place in the league in shutouts.
The Bruins go on the road now, but they are riding the three-game winning streak and are sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the league. It is clear that whatever ailed them at their return from the Olympic break has been eradicated and they are hungry for every point they can garner.