The Washington Capitals did it all Thursday night, defeating the Boston Bruins in a shootout 3-2 at TD Garden to keep their playoff hopes alive. After an uneventful first 40 minutes left the game scoreless, the Capitals scored two goals, one each from Dennis Wideman and Marcus Johansson in the third period’s first 12 minutes. They only saw it slip away late in the third as the Bruins were able to tie it, but Washington got three goals in the shootout to walk away with a huge 2 points and keep pace with the idle Sabres; Buffalo can keep the 8th spot in the conference with one point in Friday's game against the Penguins.
The game’s first seven minutes were uneventful and un-entertaining, with neither team gaining sustained offensive pressure or controlling long stretches of play; there were three combined shots through the first 11 minutes of play. Things got interesting with six minutes left in the period, though, when Jason Chimera ran Adam McQuaid from center ice and was sent off and given a game misconduct and a major for charging.
Washington, however, were able to kill off the major penalty, but suffered a huge setback with a minute left in the period as Tomas Vokoun was forced to exit the contest with a reported recurrence of his groin injury. That forced Michal Neuvirth into the net, but the Bruins were not able to score before the period expired and the first period ended tied at zero.
The second period started much like the second, with not a lot of offensive pressure by either team for the first five minutes. At the six minute mark of the period, however, the game began to open up a little bit, with the Capitals getting some chances, including a shot off the post by Matt Hendricks. That pressure paid off when they were awarded a power play at 11:08, their first of the night.
But as has been par for the course lately, the Capitals did not convert on their power play, and had six total shots on goal with six minutes left in the second period. The Capitals would get two more shots by the time the period closed to bring their game total to a grand total of nine, but it was still 0-0 after 40.
Boston came out very hard in the third period, buzzing the Caps’ net and generating quality scoring chances with long stretches of possession. The Bruins kept up their attack through the eight minute mark of the period, but it was the Capitals who finally broke through when they got their first chance of the period. Alex Ovechkin collected the puck and fed it to Dennis Wideman, who snapped it past Thomas for a 1-0 lead.
The Capitals doubled their advantage in short order, as Ovechkin took advantage of a turnover by the Bruins and pounced in transition, feeding across for a Johansson slap shot that beat Thomas to make it 2-0. After Johansson’s goal, though, the Bruins continued to press line crazy, and cut the lead to one when a Zdeno Chara point blat was tipped over Neuvirth’s shoulder by David Krejci. The Bruins got another less than 90 seconds later, as Andrew Ference took a shot from the point that squeaked through Neuvirth. The game moved to overtime after neither team could score by the end of regulation.
Overtime was fast and furious, with both teams earning chances because of the wide open play. The game moved to a shootout, and Matt Hendricks, Alexander Semin, and Brooks Laich (with a ridiculous move) scored in the skills competition to take home the two points.
The Capitals actually won a game they needed to win. Go figure. They made it way too interesting, and were bit in the behind by passive hockey once they got a lead, but in the end, they got two points. That’s what matters. Sort of.
It seems we may have seen the last of Tomas Vokoun in a Capitals uniform, and it’s a damn shame. Vokoun was great at the start of this game, and his groin injury that forced him to leave seemed to be a building issue and not a tweak on a single play. A world class goaltender and person, if he does not resign with the Caps, he will be missed on and off the ice.
Big game from the top line tonight. Ovechkin and Johansson were great in the third period (but not in the first two) to get the two goals, and Laich's move in the shootout was absolutely disgusting. Whaddaya know? The big guns were big guns.
How about it, eh? Four games left. The Caps need help from Buffalo, but this is a start. This is going to come down to the wire. Another huge tilt awaits.
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.