It was one of the wildest games in recent memory for the Caps, and it started out as if there would be no drama at all. Washington and Boston treated hockey fans to a memorable first-round playoff series last spring. Four of those seven games required overtime, as did this one tonight which culminated in a 4-3 triumph for the Capitals.
The Bruins had won eight of their first 10 road games this season prior to tonight’s outing. They play with rigid structure and top-notch talent and over the first 20 minutes they showed why their record is so gaudy.
Boston struck first while they were short-handed. Brad Marchand, their leading goal-scorer, got behind the Cap defenders for a breakaway while playing a man-down. Marchand was fouled by Alex Ovechkin and awarded a penalty shot. The deceptive shooter snapped a close-range wrister between the pads of Braden Holtby at 6:29 of the first frame.
The Caps were fine for the next 10 minutes, but the period unraveled in the last three minutes.
Hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara stashed his fourth goal of the year at 17:07. He picked up a loose rebound and slid a shot past the outstretched left leg of Holtby to give the guests a two-goal lead.
After Ovechkin was whistled for a questionable interference penalty at 18:15, the B’s power-play unit stepped into the equation.
19-year old defensemen Dougie Hamilton took a series of drop passes from David Krejci and Nathan Horton , and blasted a slapshot past Holtby on the stick side at 18:30.
It was 3-0 after one and most folks were fearful that the Bruins would runaway and hide. As it turned out, the exact opposite was true.
The Caps began their comeback thanks to leading point-scorer Mike Ribeiro. Newcomer Steve Oleksy, making his NHL debut on defense, took a right-point shot that was deflected and taken out of the air by Ovechkin 20 feet from the goal guarded by Tuuka Rask.
Ovechkin drew defenders to himself, before sliding a pass neatly to his left which Ribeiro converted at 5:46 of the second period.
Washington would strike again just after the midway mark of regulation time. It was another successful offensive zone faceoff play that landed on the stick of Tomas Kundratek. The shot by Kundratek was deflected en route by Marchand and that gave Rask all sorts of problems. He did not track the fluttering puck and its change of pace until it was too late and Kundratek had the first NHL tally of his career.
The Bruins had allowed the Caps to get back into the game in that second period, and now that Washington had momentum it turned out to be a terrific third period.
Both clubs had their chances. Washington’s vaunted power-play was kept under wraps by the Bruins top-ranked penalty-kill unit.
The Bruins found a way to generate a few more odd-man rushes in the third frame, but did not put any of those away, with maybe the most menacing chance coming from young gun Tyler Seguin, which he shot high.
The tying goal for Washington came off a relatively broken play. Eric Fehr floated a puck toward the Bruins goal which looked like it would be settled down by the Boston defense. The puck managed to escape the control of the defenders, instead laying in the high slot area where Wojtek Wolski snuck a back-hand underneath Rask.
It was bedlam inside Verizon Center, but Fehr was saving the best for last in overtime.
With the teams skating four-on-four, Nicklas Backstrom worked a pass ahead to Fehr which he carried into the zone guarded by two Bruins defenders.
The hard-working winger stickhandled beautifully around and through the defenders and then slipped a quick shot over the catching glove of Rask for a highlight finish to an amazing comeback. The overtime lasted only 37 seconds.
The Caps take aim at the Panthers here Thursday night. Washington has won its last five games against division rivals. See you on Comcast SportsNet.