Caps fall to Bruins in shootout but move into third in Metropolitan Division

Caps fall to Bruins in shootout but move into third in Metropolitan Division

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

At this point in the season, the Washington Capitals just have to stay alive. They don’t have to play beautiful hockey or turn in dominant performances; they just need to keep themselves afloat to have a good chance of reaching the playoffs.

In a tight game against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins on Saturday night at Capital One Arena, the Capitals took another step toward their goal of making the postseason. Though Boston won, 3-2, in a shootout on a goal by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in the fifth round, the point Washington secured by taking the game beyond regulation was significant in the playoff race.

Thanks to some assistance on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Capitals (36-27-10, 82 points) moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division, jumping over the Philadelphia Flyers (36-29-10, 82 points), who lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-1. Washington has two games in hand on the Flyers.

The Capitals are still taking things one game at a time, goaltender Charlie Lindgren made sure to emphasize after the game. But after a bounce-back night following a blowout loss Thursday in Toronto, they’re starting to feel good about where they stand.

“It would’ve been nice there to finish that off in overtime, on that power play, or in the shootout,” Capitals Coach Spencer Carbery said. “Had some opportunities. But overall, big picture, the game as a whole, thought it was a really good hockey game.”

Winger T.J. Oshie drew a high-sticking penalty 57 seconds into overtime. It was a double minor for Hampus Lindholm, and it put the Capitals on the power play for essentially all of the remaining time. Washington threatened, but the Bruins killed the penalty, sending the game to a shootout.

“I thought we had a real good game tonight against a good opponent,” Lindgren said. “Thought we limited their chances and had some good looks. Obviously, had some good opportunities on the four-on-three in overtime, and obviously wish we could’ve gotten that extra point in the shootout.”

Late in the first period, Lindholm beat Lindgren (27 saves) with a long-range shot, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead heading into the dressing room. Allowing goals in the first and last minute of periods has been a problem for the Capitals over the past few weeks, and while Lindholm’s goal came 73 seconds before the horn, for all intents and purposes it was a recurrence of the trend.

Capitals forward Mike Sgarbossa quickly inverted that tendency when the second period began. Eighty seconds in, he fired a wrist shot on a semi-breakaway over Boston goalie Jeremy Swayman’s right shoulder to tie the score. Defenseman Nick Jensen started the play with a stretch pass from deep inside Washington’s end after spotting Sgarbossa approaching the offensive blue line with plenty of time and space amid a botched Boston line change.

Just 1:22 after Sgarbossa scored, though, Johnny Beecher restored the Bruins’ lead with a five-hole finish on Lindgren. Center Dylan Strome turned the puck over at the blue line while looking for defenseman John Carlson with a pass, and Beecher pounced on the opportunity with nothing but open ice between him and Lindgren. By the time Beecher got to Lindgren, Strome was on one knee and Carlson had pulled up, knowing there was no catching the speedy forward.

Washington squandered a power-play opportunity midway through the period after Danton Heinen was sent off for slashing. But when the Capitals were given another power play only 28 seconds after Heinen emerged from the penalty box, after Shattenkirk hooked Nic Dowd, they didn’t make the same mistake.

Winger Max Pacioretty found Carlson, who played his 1,000th game Saturday and will be honored April 7 against the Ottawa Senators, with a pass through the crease that set up Carlson for a slam dunk past Swayman (18 saves) to tie the score at 2. Carlson tied Kevin Hatcher at 149 goals, the most by a defenseman in franchise history.

The Bruins’ top line — featuring Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha — threatened to add another last-minute goal to the Capitals’ ledger on a frenetic shift to end the period, but blocks by Carlson and Pacioretty and a miss wide by Charlie McAvoy kept the game level through 40 minutes.

Neither team made a strong push for a go-ahead goal for much of the third period. The game morphed into the kind of tight, close-checking matchup that the Capitals have found success in. Their flaws are magnified in a track meet, but when they keep a game tight, they almost always have a chance to win.

“You could feel in the third period, both teams were desperate for points and trying to navigate that without getting — trying to obviously score but also obviously making sure that they weren’t giving anything up on the other side,” Carbery said. “Would’ve been nice to get two [points], but a real good hockey game against one of the best teams in the league.”

Carbery chalked up Washington’s inability to capitalize on the four-minute power play in overtime partially to the ice conditions, which were deteriorating and made passing more difficult, and partially to a reliance on looking for one-timers rather than trying to create a rebound situation in front of Swayman.

Washington had chances to leave the game with two points, but at this point of the season, one point was enough to leave the Capitals in a favorable position with nine games left to play.

“You bear down in every game, in every situation,” Carlson said. “We showed some poise. Wasn’t perfect tonight, but showed some poise coming back and battling to the end, giving ourselves a chance to win. Would’ve been nice to win, but it showed a lot of guts from us.”

Note: Defenseman Rasmus Sandin missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. The Capitals announced shortly before warmups that Sandin would not play. Vincent Iorio, making his season debut, skated on the third pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk.

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