The Washington Capitals pulled off another unlikely victory on Sunday, defeating the big, bad, Boston Bruins inside TD Garden by a final score of 4-3. Alexander Semin, Jay Beagle, Brooks Laich, and Matt Hendricks all scored against the Bruins, who gave up four goals at home for the first time January 7th. Tomas Vokoun was stellar in net, making 30 saves for the Caps, who are now only one point out of third in the Southeast Division and two points up on the Jets for the final playoff spot in the East win one game in hand.
Washington started the game strong, setting up a strong forecheck and getting some shots on Tim Thomas within the first two minutes. After that initial flurry, though, the Bruins began to press down on the gas pedal, taking control of the game and getting good scoring chances that required Tomas Vokoun to make some great saves. But it was the Caps who struck first, taking advantage of a rush up ice when Alexander Semin potted a rebound after eight minutes. 25 seconds later, Matt Hendricks doubled the lead by burying another rebound in front to silence the TD Garden crowd.
After the Washington goals, though, the Bruins came back hard and drew a power play for themselves with eight and a half to play. The Caps killed it off, but Roman Hamrlik, playing in his first game in more than two weeks, took another penalty with four minutes left to give Boston another power play. Again, however, the Caps dodged the bullet despite a lot of time in their own zone, relying on brilliant play by Vokoun to bail them out. The Caps could not hold off the Bruins forever, though, and Milan Lucic powered one through the five-hole with only 5.6 seconds left to end the period at 2-1 Caps.
The second period got off to a slower start, with neither team generating sustained zone pressure But the Bruins were able to draw even after five minutes when Alex Ovechkin committed a terrible turnover which led to a breakaway for Brad Marchand, who deked Vokoun open and finished cleanly through the five hole. The Caps then got their first power play of the game with 11 minutes left in the frame, but despite several nice chances, could not connect to re-take the lead until after the man advantage was over. Jay Beagle took a nice pass from Alexander Semin in front and one-timed it past Thomas with eight and a half left in the period to make it 3-2.
The Caps got another power play after the goal as David Krejci was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and again had a lot of zone time but were not able to put one past the Bruins goaltender while they had the extra man. The power play parade continued after that for the Caps, who got another with four and a half left in the game, and this time they finished it off after a beautiful passing play, as Brooks Laich tipped it home in front for a 4-2 lead.
The third period was all Bruins. The Stanley Cup champions controlled the pace of play from the start, dominating the possession of the puck and shooting the lights out on Tomas Vokoun. They had the puck in the Washington zone for minutes on end, and were out-shooting the Caps in the period 6-0 at one point. Finally, after what seemed like forever, they were able to break through, as defenseman Johnny Boychuk pinched down from the top of the circle and chipped one past a laid out Vokoun. Despite another late push, though, the Bruins could not draw even, and the Caps left the Hub with two huge points.
Tomas Vokoun was simply sublime in this game. The veteran goaltender made several brilliant saves throughout the course of the contest, none better than the sliding pad save on Tyler Seguin he made midway through the fist period. He’s been great in both his games back on the ice, and if the Caps make the playoffs, it will be on his back.
Alexander Semin was good again and now has 32 points in his last 37 games. He’s been one of Washington’s best players over the last month and today was no exception. He created with his passing and shooting. As always, though, the question with Semin is not that he can do it, but that he can do it consistently. I guess we will have to wait and see.
Though these two points are huge, perspective is important. The Capitals still have a big mountain to climb to get to where we all know they can and should be. But, at least for one afternoon, the Caps played to their (Dale Hunter limited) potential, and beat the Stanley Cup champs in their house. Feels good, don’t it?
BONUS Observation: ATTTTTAAAA BOYYYYY, BEEAAAAGSSSS. HEYYYY NOWWWW, BEEAGGGSSSSSSSS! - Matt Hendricks
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.