Photo by NHL/Elsa via Getty Images
The Washington Capitals won game seven against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, vanquishing the defending Stanley Cup champions in overtime and winning their first round series four games to three. The Capitals jumped out to a lead after eight minutes with a goal from Matt Hendricks, but for most of the game, they were outshot and outplayed. The Bruins tied the game in the second period off a goal from Tyler Seguin, but neither team could get a second goal in regulation to win the game. But Washington got the winning goal from Joel Ward in overtime, as the maligned winger attempted to earn his massive free agent contract. Braden Holtby, who stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced, also became the first rookie goaltender in 15 years to win a game seven, and the closest playoff series in the history of the NHL came to a heart-stopping and spectacular close.
With the stage set by an electric TD Garden crowd, the first five minutes of the game were back and forth, with both teams earning chances, but it was the hosts who sustained the first solid offensive pressure of the game. Overall, however, the opening 10 minutes of the game was played conservatively, with neither team taking many chances. However, the Capitals were able to take the lead after 11 minutes when John Carlson took advantage of a turnover by Milan Lucic and threw the puck on net; it was tipped past Tim Thomas beautifully by Matt Hendricks for a 1-0 lead.
Predictably, the Bruins pushed back admirably following the goal against. The Cup champs countered with speed and aggressive forechecking, and earned a power play with just under two minutes left when Brad Marchand pursued a loose puck at the end of a shift and was tripped up by Jeff Schultz. But the Boston power play, which had struggled up to that point in the series, was not able to convert in the 1:50 left in the period and it closed with DC ahead 1-0.
The Capitals came out very hard in the second period, earning two excellent chances in the first three minutes of the frame – one each off the stick of Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. After those two opportunities were thwarted by Thomas, however, the Bruins pushed hard again and began to control the pace of play once more. Holtby began to work his magic again as the midway mark of the period came and went, making a few nice saves to keep the lead intact, including a very nice pad stop on Tyler Seguin.
Boston would not be denied forever, however, and tied the game up with five and a half minutes left in the period. Johnny Boychuk’s booming shot was left loose in the crease, and Seguin popped it in the empty net with Holtby down and out, having failed to sweep the puck out of the crease. The home team continued to pressure even after they scored, holding possession for long periods and owning zone possession, but could not score again and the period closed at 1-1.
The Bruins continued to dominate the run of play in the early stages of play in the third period, and earned another power play after 78 seconds. Washington killed the penalty nicely, but unfortunately, could not pick up any momentum from their successful shorthanded execution. The home team continued their pressure through the 50 minute mark of the game, but with exactly nine minutes left in the game, the Caps finally generated an opportunity, and the Bruins were called for their first penalty of the game.
Washington set up a dominant power play, passing the puck brilliantly around the perimeter of the zone and getting good shots continuously. But alas, some key saves and a heroic shot block by Dennis Seidenberg on Ovechkin kept the score tied. After the power play, furious action ensued, end to end, with both teams coming oh so close to the decisive goal. With 2:26 left in the period, Jason Chimera was called for holding, though it took the referee three full seconds from the time the play occurred to raise his arm. But the Caps killed off the penalty, and the game moved to overtime for the fourth time in the series.
Boston got the first chance of overtime, as Bergeron had a yawning cage to shoot at but whiffed, sending it wide. Soon after, however, the Caps made history, as Joel Ward and Mike Knuble broke in on a two on one. After the initial shot by Knuble was stopped, Ward grabbed the rebound and slammed it home for the series win.
There’s only one tonight, but it’s a big one. This Capitals team played their game of the season tonight. Inside one of the NHL’s toughest buildings, the Caps came together, they kept their composure, and they beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in overtime. Damn, what an ending. And we have another series that starts on the weekend. Magnificent, magnificent stuff. The crow is delicious.
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.