Clutch players come to play in pivotal games, and Capitals’ forward Troy Brouwer put his stamp on just such a game. With the Caps on the powerplay and just 1:27 to go in a tie game, Brouwer raced down the wing with the puck on his stick and fired home the game-winning goal. Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas was too aggressive on the play and lost his angle on Brouwer’s wrist shot, letting the puck go over his glove. Brouwer was a factor all night in the physical play, finishing the game with 3 hits and 4 penalty minutes in two separate scrums. All six of the winger’s career playoff goals have come in wins, including all four he scored when his Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Game 5 started out typically for this series, tied 0-0 after one period. The Bruins made several sloppy plays early on, including one that led to a chance for Capitals defenseman John Carlson 2:30 in. Carlson got behind the Bruins defense, shot the puck, and followed his rebound to the cage. As he was stopping in front of Thomas, he took a push from behind and toppled over the goalkeeper and earning himself a two-minute trip to the box. Once again, the Capital penalty killers were up to the task, but the Bruins had good puck movement and defenseman Zdeno Chara managed to rip a shot off the crossbar.
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Chara ended up in the box himself midway through the period. With Brouwer and Daniel Paille already in the box for a fracas before a faceoff, Chara and Alex Ovechkin exchanged a few shoves in the Bruins zone as they were battling for the puck. A few moments later, Ovechkin bulldozed a path to the net while following a shot and took a cross-check from Chara.
The Capitals managed to control the play well druing the 4-on-3 advantage for a minute, but the highlight of the 5-on-4 was Daniel Paille’s shorthanded breakaway after an ill-advised pass from Marcus Johansson flew over Brooks Laich’s stick at the point. The rest of the period was characterized by the Bruins’ strong forecheck and Caps giveaways. This combination, namely a bad pass by Caps defenseman Mike Green tipped by Bruins center Patrice Bergeron to keep the play alive, drew a hooking penalty from Roman Hamrlik to put the Bruins on another fruitless powerplay late in the period. After the powerplay, the Caps had one great chance as Alex Ovechkin took a pass from Laich behind the Bruins D and tried to deke Thomas.
The period ended with a bang. Jason Chimera beat Zdeno Chara to the puck in the corner and managed to move the puck along despite the hit from Chara that kept him pinned to the boards. Chara kept him pinned there as the puck moved away, and eventually Chimera swung his elbow around and caught Chara’s head, driving it into the glass and putting Chara on the ice. No penalties were called.
The second period opened with more of the same type of play, lots of shot blocks and the occasional odd-man break. The first ten minutes were highlighted by Chara talking smack to Chimera at the Caps bench and Brouwer getting into a tussle with Bruins defender Johnny Boychuk. The Capitals’ commitment to team defense and blocking shots was apparent throughout the game, and goalie Braden Holtby and the Caps kept the Bruins at bay long enough for them to build the first two-goal lead of the series.
The game remained scoreless until 11 minutes into the second period. As the Caps line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and Marcus Johansson pressed in the Bruins’ zone, a point shot hit Bruins defender Joe Corvo inside his knee, dropping him to the ice. As the Capitals still had puck possession, the whistle never blew, and the Caps kept pressing. Johansson fed Wideman at the point, and Wideman fired a shot on Thomas. Thomas made the initial save, but Semin, who had been camping out by the far post, knocked defender Greg Zanon to the ice, collected the rebound, made a deft move around the goalie, and calmly buried it for his third goal of the series. It was the kind of greasy goal the Caps needed, and Alex Semin is quickly blowing this series open.
A few minutes later, a hustle play by Caps center Jay Beagle kept the puck inside the Boston zone. Beagle kept the puck for himself, approached the goal, and fired a shot that tipped off Boychuk and over Thomas’s glove for his first career playoff goal and a 2-0 lead. Once the lead was widened, the Bruins tried to use their physicality to set the tone and get themselves back into the game. Shawn Thornton in particular was a thorn, trying to mix it up with John Erskine on one shift and leveling Matt Hendrick on the next. In any event, the Bruins woke up.
Despite the wide lead, the Capitals nearly managed to fritter it away over a 30 second span less than three minutes later. Alex Ovechkin stopped skating in the neutral zone, which allowed Bruins defender Dennis Seidenberg to enter the Caps zone uncovered. He received a pass from Milan Lucic and ripped a shot over Holtby to halve the lead. Twenty-eight seconds later, the Bruins struck again. After a shot from the point bounced off Holtby’s pads, two Bruins were in front of Holtby but only one was covered. Brad Marchand tucked the rebound through Holtby’s 5-hole to tie the game and bring the once-dormant Boston crowd to a deafening roar and send the Bruins to the locker room tied once again.
The Bruins barely had time to settle into the third period before the Caps struck again. Three minutes into the period, Caps defenseman John Erskine fed fourth-liner Joel Ward on the right wing. As he entered the Bruins zone, he put a shot off Thomas’s pad. The puck bounced out to the other side of the net where Mike Knuble was waiting after beating Shawn Thornton for inside positioning. As Thomas struggled to get back to cover the open net, Knuble banged the puck back at the goal, sliding it under Thomas’s stick and into back of the net.
The Capitals managed to give the lead right back. Just four minutes later, a giveaway by Marcus Johansson forced a penalty to Dennis Wideman. With Wideman in the box, the Bruins powerplay struck for the first time all series, as Johnny Boychuk ripped a point shot past Holtby. As the clock wound down on the game, it looked like there would be a third overtime match in this series between these two evenly matched clubs.
With three minutes to go and the puck in the Bruins zone, Nicklas Backstrom got loose with the puck in the slot, causing Benoit Pouliot to slash him across the thigh and putting the Capitals on a late powerplay. After Brouwer’s goal with 87 seconds left, the Capitals held on for the win, once again frustrating the Bruins even with their goalie pulled. The Capitals have pushed the Bruins to the brink of elimination, and Game 6 is just 24 hours after Game 5. This series could be over tomorrow.