WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Monday was a night of firsts.
The Washington Capitals had the first power play goal of the series and scored the first goal in the first period. The Boston Bruins, meanwhile, had their first lead of the series in regulation. For all seven goal scorers, it was the first time they lit the lamp this postseason.
Unfortunately for Braden Holtby, the night of firsts proved to be the first time he gave up more than one goal in his brief NHL playoff career and Caps fell 4-3 to the Bruins who took a two-to-one lead in the series.
Holtby, who only allowed two goals in the series heading into Monday’s contest, only managed to stop 25 of 29 shots on goal. But he didn’t have a lot of help in front for his home playoff debut.
Holtby could only be held responsible for one of the four goals allowed — a Rich Peverley wrister hit his glove and bounced in. Daniel Paille and Brian Rolston both put in rebounds, while Zdeno Chara’s 4-on-4 blast went off of Roman Hamrlik’s stick and in.
“I thought he played really good again,” Caps veteran Brooks Laich said. “He’s a tremendous goalie and I think he takes it upon himself to compete directly against the other guy at the end of the ice. He’s a kid that has a lot of pride, he’s a real battler. I see a lot of shades of Olaf Kolzig in him the way he competes in the net.”
Unlike the first two games, the Bruins were able to crowd the net in front of Holtby. It also didn’t help the Caps blocked only 15 shots when they blocked a combined 49 shots in the first two games.
“You look at the second and third goals, it’s a direct result of them working harder in front and out-working us, myself included,” Holtby said. “They did what they were planning on doing and we didn’t respond. We will next game.”
The Caps started hot as Alexander Semin rocketed one past Tim Thomas after a great screen in front by Brooks Laich on the power play in the first. The Caps broke an 0-for-5 drought heading into the game with the extra man and ended the game going 1-for-4 and 1-for-9 in the series on the power play.
Just 35 seconds into the second, while playing 4-on-4 hockey, Rich Peverley put the Bruins on the board. He beat Holtby glove side as th rookie couldn’t handle the puck when it hit his glove and bounced in.
Not to be denied, Alexander Ovechkin answered back for the Cap 13 seconds later when took it down the right side and beat Thomas low glove side to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
The Caps 2-1 lead lasted just under nine minutes when Daniel Paille put in a Greg Zanon rebound to tie it.
Just 1:02 into the third, Brian Rolston put in a Chris Kelly rebound to give the Bruins their first regulation lead of the series.
That’s how it stayed until six minutes left in the third when Nicklas Backstrom found Brooks Laich behind the defenders on a real nice up the boards pass to give Laich a breakaway in which he beat Thomas up high to make it 3-3.
Backstrom’s elation would last until he was called for his third penalty of the game, a cross-checking call that set the wheels in motion for a late Bruins victory.
Boston made the Caps pay on another 4-on-4. Zdeno Chara launched a shot from the point that went off of Roman Hamrlik’s stick and high by Braden Holtby and in to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Bruins ended up 0-for-5 on the power play, 0-for-11 in the series, but lead the series two games to one.
The bad news didn’t end there for the Caps. Backstrom was hit with a 10 minute match penalty at the end of the game when he cross-checked Rich Peverley to the face mask after the final horn had sounded.
The penalty carries with it an automatic suspension until the commissioner can rule on it. Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter doesn’t believe he will be suspended.
“They gave him a match,” Hunter said. “But I think the league will review it and rescind it. If you see it, it was not bad.”
This was by far the chippiest game of the series. There were a combined six roughing penalties (five by the Bruins), two unsportsmanlike penalties and one match penalty. Brooks Laich received one of the unsportsmanlike penalties just past the midway point in the second when Milan Lucic, who had four penalities on the night, pushed him down during a face off.
“I didn’t think I did much to deserve a penalty,” Laich said. “But that’s the way it goes.”
It would be a huge blow to the Caps if Backstrom, who has a goal and an assist in the series, is suspended.
The Caps out shot the Bruins 32-29, but were out hit 58-36 as the Bruins blocked 21 shots to the Capitals 15.
“It’s tough. It’s nothing to lose. Series is not ended,” Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose and unfortunately we lost and we are looking forward to the next game. I think we played great today, but we made a couple of mistakes and it cost us a goal. It was a great battle.”
Tim Thomas continues to be terrific for the Bruins, stopping 29-of-32 shots, including robbing Jay Beagle for the second game in a row and deflecting an Ovechkin re-direct.
“There was no panic because you can’t afford to panic,” Thomas said. “Having said that, I don’t think anyone would have said ‘I knew we were going to win, I knew we were going to be able to come back.’ We knew what we had to do to try to make that happen; the way we needed to sort of play to make that happen… It was big for us to start scoring, I think, with the way the first two games of this series went. Unfortunately, they started scoring a little bit more too but at the end of the game, we had one more [goal] than they did.”
The Caps will have to turn some stats back into their favor in Game 4 on Thursday at Verizon Center if they want to even the series before they head back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and John Carlson had to say following the loss.
1st 16:00 PP Semin (1), Laich (1), Ovechkin (2)
2nd 0:48 Ovechkin (1), Laich (2), Hamrlik (1)
3rd 14:00 Laich (1), Backstrom (1), Green (1)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Postgame Audio
Braden Holtby Postgame Audio
Brooks Laich Postgame Audio
Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio
John Carlson Postgame Audio