The Capitals have had their share of success at TD Garden recently. They knocked off the Bruins in the enemy’s den in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring, and swept two games here in the regular season that preceded that seven-game thriller. But Boston wasn’t buying any of that this Saturday, as they rolled to a 4-1 win in a tough and physical encounter.
Michal Neuvirth earned the starting nod in goal from Capitals Coach Adam Oates. Boston boss Claude Julien countered with Anton Khudobin in the cage for the B’s, as both clubs have busy weekends and more game action Sunday.
Defenseman Jack Hillen returned to the active line-up for Washington, playing in his first game since suffering an opening-night injury in Tampa Bay. His return coincided with the Caps losing Tomas Kundratek to the injured list after his 1st period mishap in Raleigh Thursday night.
Two weeks ago the Bruins lost a 4-3 overtime decision to Washington at Verizon Center. That game saw the visitors blow a 3-0 first period lead to the Caps.
Boston jumped on the Capitals again in the first period today, this time to the tune of a 2-0 advantage. Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton wound up having a blockbuster game for the Bruins (9 points total) and they hogged the spotlight in the opening 20 minutes.
Horton would strike first. A Caps turnover below the goal-line led to Lucic swinging from behind the net to find Horton working in the slot. A one-time rocket sailed past Neuvirth for Horton’s eighth of the year and first of the month.
About three minutes later that Boston line would converge on the Caps net again. Mike Ribeiro’s attempt to sweep the puck out of harm’s way landed right on Krejci’s tape and he snapped his seventh of the season at 17:15 of the first.
The Caps would score early in a fight-filled second period to cut the lead in half. Marcus Johansson would be credited with his second goal of the season, but in the strangest of ways when Krejci’s clearing attempt banked off B’s defenseman Johnny Boychuk and past Khudobin.
Boston took its two-goal lead back thanks to an old-fashioned wrist shot from defenseman Andrew Ference. The Bruin blue-liner walked in to about 30 feet before zipping that shot over the glove of Neuvirth, off the junction where the crossbar meets the goalpost, and into the cage.
The rough stuff came in the final minute of the middle period. Boston pest Brad Marchand dropped the gloves with Ribeiro at 19:41. Seeing Ribeiro in a tussle is unusual. Eight seconds later Matt Hendricks was throwing punches with Nathan Horton. Hendricks had been close to scrapping with Bruins defender Adam McQuaid twice earlier in the game and they would have at it soon enough in the third period.
Boston put this game on ice with an early third period power-play goal. With several Bruins swarming the goal-crease, Rich Peverley tapped in his fourth goal of the year at the 2:41 mark.
There was not going to be another brilliant Caps comeback in this game, but there was one more violent exchange involving Matt Hendricks.
Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton had been upset with Hendricks for rumbling with Horton in the second period. Near the midway mark of the third period, Thornton openly challenged Hendricks on a faceoff in the Caps zone. While Hendricks was not so inclined to dance with Thornton, the play moved towards center ice where McQuaid was lurking. It was there that Hendricks had his “pick one” moment. Both McQuaid and Thornton had the gritty winger surrounded. Matt dropped his gloves and got into a heated scrap with McQuaid, one that had been festering most of the day. Give full marks to Hendricks for a couple of battles and a strong display of courage sticking up for himself and his teammates.
The Caps make their way home to tangle with the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night at Verizon Center, a game we invite you to follow on Comcast SportsNet.