The Washington Capitals lately the nemesis of the Boston Bruins thanks in large part to the stellar play of goaltender Braden Holtby, gave the Black and Gold their first road loss of the season at the Verizon Center Thursday thanks to goals from Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, John Carlson and Karl Alzner (empty net).
Boston opened scoring in the first period, breaking up Holtby’s shutout streak against the Bruins of nearly 200 minutes when Jimmy Hayes drove hard to the net and banged in Brett Connolly’s shot/pass to the front of the net at 12:47. Defenseman Colin Miller got the secondary assist on the play, adding to his five-game point streak (goal, 4 assists).
The lead did not last, as a Kevan Miller turnover saw the puck end up on Ovechkin’s stick, who fought through traffic to get a shot into the net past Tuukka Rask.
Laich gave the Caps a lead they would not relinquish, as he deflected a Dmitry Orlov point shot down and past Rask just as Bruins defender Joe Morrow arrived to knock him down.
Boston came unglued in the second period, as Hayes took a needless neutral zone slashing penalty, and while Boston’s NHL-worst penalty killing unit was on the ice, Brad Marchand got into a physical battle with the Caps’ TJ Oshie in front of the B’s net. Both players went down, but as Marchand got up, he rabbit-punched Oshie in the back of the head. End result, a 5-on-3 power play for 1:18 that the Caps cashed in on.
With Nicklas Backstrom holding the puck on the right side of the Boston net just behind the goal line and K. Miller down on his knees and out of position, Backstrom slipped a pass to Carlson as he snuck in past the slot penalty killer and fired a shot home to give the home team a decisive lead.
In a mostly scoreless third period, with both Rask and Holtby trading quality saves, Alzner scored into the empty net to finish out the offense on the night in a 4-1 game.
Tyler Randell got back into the Boston lineup for this one and had his first NHL fight against Caps forward Michael Latta, a rival from their OHL days. It was a pretty even bout, with Randell getting the edge in punches landed and the takedown, but Latta got a couple of hard rights in to make it a no decision.
For the Bruins, a tough week that began with the home loss to Dallas was made a little tougher by having to face a goaltender that has essentially owned them in his career. With just 1 goal given up in 246:43, and four consecutive wins against the Bruins, Holtby’s mojo persists.
Colin Miller- It’s hard not to like what “Chiller” is bringing to the table. He’s scoring points and carrying the puck with confidence, as evidenced by a third period rush, when he skated through three Capitals in the neutral zone, gained the offensive blue line and then put a low shot that Holtby had to squeeze the pads together quickly to stop. As with any defenseman in their first NHL season, there are things to work on, mainly in his defensive coverage and decisions with the puck at times, as he will make higher-risk passes or skate the puck into danger zones when there are better options. But overall, the former Kings prospect has come exactly as advertised and his tangible production and impact- six points in his first 12 big league games- are probably better than anticipated. He’s a keeper.
Braden Holtby- He’s a workhorse, All-Star and he absolutely has Boston’s number. In his last four starts against the Bruins, he posted games with 29, 32, 27 saves- all shutouts, then stopped all but one of Boston’s 28 shots in this one. As someone who used to live in the D.C. area when Holtby was coming up through Washington’s system after a standout WHL career with the Saskatoon Blades, I was always far more impressed with him than I was with the other higher-touted goalies in Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. When Holtby showed up in April of 2012 to beat the defending Stanley Cup champs in a seven-game first-round playoff series, some mocked me on Twitter at the time for saying the guy was headed for the upper echelon in the NHL. Not too many would deny him his spot there today. “Holt-beast” indeed.
Brad Marchand- His lack of discipline hurt the team badly, and there’s absolutely no excuse for it. If the team didn’t need him so much, it might have made sense to send him a sterner message. Marchand has always been on the edge, but his selfishness tends to manifest at the worst possible time. I’m sure he’ll take accountability for putting his team in the hole like he did if he’s not on record already doing it, but talk is cheap. At some point, he’s got to wake up and stop taking bad penalties like this. That the referees made a ticky-tack call on Hayes to put the B’s down a man to begin with is not the point- Marchand inexplicably gave a head shot to Oshie in full view of the referee. That kind of stuff is unacceptable, and there are no more passes for Marchand- he’s a veteran enough player to understand that by now.
Boston defense- We knew this group of players would have a rollercoaster season given their relative inexperience with Dennis Seidenberg still out (though getting closer to a return). The youngsters have done well for the most part, but tonight, they were a step behind and not effective at doing the corner work or keeping the front of their net clear. Washington forwards did a nice job of pinballing off of checks and working pucks to the net. This kind of thing is going to happen, and fans will have to understand that, but in a game the B’s had the lead in, it’s a shame to see the kinds of breakdowns on the back end that led to Washington goals. Rask didn’t have a lot of help and deserved a better fate. Morrow and K. Miller in particular had forgettable performances and will need to shake that off going forward.
Here are some postgame notes and quotes compliments of the Washington Capitals media relations team:
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on slowing down the Bruins…
“[The Bruins] still do one thing really well – that’s getting shots to the front with traffic, and that presence. They’re still really good at that. They have some good D-men that can get the puck on net with wrist shots or what-not and create havoc, and that’s where their toughest plays for us were…I thought we did a good job, especially in the neutral zone – didn’t give them anything really throughout the whole game. We stuck to our game plan, and the power play was huge for us too.”
Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien on how the game got away from the Bruins…
“The first ten minutes were good. I thought once we scored that goal, that’s when I thought we took our foot off the gas and let them get themselves back into the game. Second period was a matter of some real bad penalties that kind of hurts your team and gives them some momentum. Third period we had to claw our way back into it. They’re a good defensive team, and we didn’t get enough shots on net, and we didn’t get enough players in that area as well to be able to score some goals.”
Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien on the effects of the Bruins’ penalties…
“All three penalties – you take a slashing in the neutral zone, you have too many men on the ice when your guy that you’re jumping for [is still on the ice] and the puck is coming – it’s like you’ve got to be smarter than that. So, it’s not just [Brad Marchand]. I thought the second period penalties were real bad penalties on our part.”
Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand on playing against Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby…
“He’s a good goalie. I think they have a really good team over there, too. We just have to get a few more bodies out front. He’s one of the really good goalies in this league. We just have to find a way to beat him and just get bodies in front.”
The Bruins get to face Montreal on Saturday, with another game Sunday in Boston against the Islanders. This week isn’t going to get any easier.