Photo by AP Photo
The Washington Capitals missed their chance Sunday afternoon to make a statement and close out the Bruins in six games, falling at home to Boston 4-3 in overtime in game six of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The Capitals fell behind three separate times in this game, tying it each time, including a goal from Alex Ovechkin late in regulation. They were able to get the game to overtime, but Tyler Seguin was able to steal the game for the visitors quickly once the extra period started. Mike Green and Jason Chimera joined the captain in the goal scoring column for the Caps, while Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby made 27 saves in the D.C. nets. Game seven is Wednesday night in Boston.
The defending Stanley Cup champions came out very hard, forcing turnovers and generating chances on Holtby, who was there to make the stops, particularly a snappy glove save on Tyler Seguin. But Boston continued to press hard despite more great play from Holtby, and eventually capitalized when Rich Peverley, one of Boston’s best players all series, tipped a puck into the cage after six minutes. It would not take the home side long to respond, however, as Mike Green blasted a slap shot through traffic to tie the game three minutes later. Washington was then sent to the power play at the midway mark of the period when Patrice Bergeron got Karl Alzner with a nasty slew-foot behind the net.
Despite some good pressure, particularly in the second minute of the power play, the Caps were not able to score with an extra man. With 7:06 remaining in the frame, Jason Chimera was called for a hook, giving Boston a power play of their own; however the D.C. penalty killers, aided by Holtby, held firm. But Alex Semin was called for a hook soon after that kill, and the Bruins converted that time, as David Krejci slammed one home short side to take a 2-1 lead. Washington would get another power play immediately after the Boston goal, but could not convert and the period closed 2-1 in the visiting team’s favor.
The middle stanza started with another Bruins power play, as Alex Ovechkin was called for a double-minor high sticking infraction on Zdeno Chara shortly after the Russian winger missed a yawning cage with a one-timer. But the Caps’ penalty killers were able to eliminate the entire four minutes of shorthanded time, giving them a huge momentum boost, which they used to really start buzzing the Bruins’ net and just missed an equalizer on two occasions.
Washington continued to carry play past the midway mark of the stanza, getting some very good chances, and were finally rewarded with a power play with four minutes remaining after Bergeron got called for a high stick. The Caps had many more opportunities to score on this man advantage, but once again were stymied by Thomas in front and could not convert. But with less than two minutes remaining in the period, Jason Chimera knocked Brad Marchand out of the play with a high hit, and the ensuing rush up ice led to a Caps goal when Nicklas Backstrom fround a cutting Chimera on the far side for the tap-in finish. The period closed even at twos.
On the penalty kill to start the third period because of some calls at the end of the second period, Washington was able to knock off the Boston man advantage with some heroic penalty killing by Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, and Broks Laich. The home team picked up a little bit of momentum from that kill, and picked up another power play when Benoit Pouliot was sent off for a questionable roughing call. But as had been the case on their other man advantages in the game, they could not get one past Thomas on the power play.
But it was the Bruins who would break the deadlock, as Andrew Ference pounced on a loose puck in front of the net after a Tyler Seguin drive that silenced the Verizon Center crowd with eight minutes left in the period. After the goal, the Bruins completely turtled, going in to full defense mode, but it didn’t matter, as Alex Ovechkin ripped a shot past Thomas off a faceoff to draw even once again with four and a half minutes to go. There were many chances in the games final four minutes, but neither team could score, resulting in overtime.
At the start of OT, it was the Bruins who got the best chances early, forcing Holtby in to some saves and also hitting a crossbar in tight. Boston’s luck would change soon after that pipe was rung, as Tyler Seguin took advantage of a turnover and slotted the winner past Holtby to force a seventh and decisive game.
Two weeks ago, one of my very good friends, who happens to be a Bruins fan, asked me who his least favorite Capital would be by the end of the series. I told him Chimera, and it looks like I was right. The Caps’ speedy, gritty winger has played on the edge all playoffs, and he didn’t stop today. His hit on Brad Marchand, which looked a lot worse than it was because of Marchand’s triple lutz, was a borderline play, high and potentially dangerous. The fact that it led to such a huge goal is only fuel on the fire at this point.
Karl Alzner is an absolute stud. Washington’s top shutdown defenseman has been an excellent penalty killer and lockdown player and even strength all series and he was particularly great on the 4-on-3 penalty kill to start the third period. He is not easily the Caps’ best defensive defenseman, and I get the feeling that he has been for awhile now. Exceptional, exceptional work from 27 all year and so far in these playoffs.
Well, this right here is why you play hockey. It’s game seven, and it’s for all the marbles. The Caps had that chance to close out the defending Cup champs on home ice, and they blew it. Now they have to go up to TD Garden, which will be unbelievably loud, and come up with a win. Even worse? The two off days give Patrice Bergeron, struggling with an injury, and Tim Thomas, no spring chicken, time to get ready for the final game. Ooofa.
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Capitals for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.