BOSTON, MA– In action for the first time since returning from the NHL’s three-week schedule break for the Sochi Olympics, the Boston Bruins suffered a dissapointing 5-4 defeat at the hands of the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday evening in Western New York. Led by a trio of Olympic medalists; Tuukka Rask (Bronze), Loui Eriksson (Silver), and Patrice Bergeron (Gold), the Bruins made their return to the TD Garden on Saturday afternoon in hopes of securing their first win of the regular season’s unofficial second half. Standing in their way was superstar sniper Alexander Ovechkin and the red-hot Washington Capitals, winners of their previous three games. Unfortunately for the sellout crowd of 17, 565 that packed into the stands on this, the first afternoon in March, the Bruins were dealt their second consecutive post-Olympic defeat, succumbing to the Capitals by a score of 4-2.
Entering Saturday’s contest, it was anything but a secret as to exactly how dangerous the Capitals are with the man-advantage. Washington has been amongst the league leaders in power-play conversion percentage all season long, thanks in most part to Ovechkin and his cannon of a slapshot. Special teams would once again prove to be the difference in this one, as the Caps found the back of the net on the power-play not once, but twice. The first came with under two minutes to play in the game’s opening frame when, you guessed it, Ovechkin, blasted a one-timer past Bruins’ goaltender Tuukka Rask to put his team ahead, 1-0.
Less than three minutes after the teams had returned from the first intermission, it was deja-vu for the Black and Gold as the Capitals would strike again on the power-play. With Boston defenseman Matt Bartkowski serving a penalty for tripping, Ovechkin once again teed-up a one-timer blast and fired it right past Rask in what appeared to be a replay of his first tally.
“I don’t think we were disciplined enough tonight to play against a team with that kind of power-play” said Boston head coach Claude Julien, after watching his team take six minor penalties over the course of Saturday’s contest. With a two-goal lead already in tow, the visiting Capitals really turned the pressure up on the Bruins midway through the period when gritty fourth-liner Joel Ward managed to steal the puck and beat a pair of Bruin defenders before racing in and scoring on a breakaway.
Down by a prohibitive 3-0 score in their own building, the Bruins responded quickly and found a way onto the scoresheet just 41 seconds later. After taking a feed from defenseman Dougie Hamilton, it was Patrice Bergeron who rifled the puck past Caps’ netminder Braden Holtby for his 17th tally of the campaign. In the waning minutes of the frame, the B’s would add another and pull within a goal before the second intermission. After an excellent defensive zone shift, the B’s fourth-line cashed in when Shawn Thornton‘s centering pass redirected off a Washington defender and into the back of the net.
Despite controlling the action for much of the game’s middle period, the Bruins simply couldn’t carry that momentum over to the third. Holtby, the man who eliminated the defending champion Bruins from the 2012 postseason, once again proved his dominance against Boston during this contest. “He was unbelievable. (I’ve got to) just let him know that he played great, because he did”, said an appreciative Capitals’ head coach Adam Oates. “The game probably could have been 8-0 and he kept it to 2-0 with an empty netter. So you have to take your hat off to him tonight”, he added. Just past the midpoint of the final frame, Caps’ forward and longtime Bruins’ nemesis Eric Fehr would bury one past Rask on a breakaway to extend his team’s lead to 4-2. The B’s would storm the Washington zone with a flurry of shots in the final few minutes, but Holtby was there to make the stop every time, as he and the Caps would escape Boston with a 4-2 victory.
Ben’s Three Stars of the Night:
2) Braden Holtby (36 Saves)
3) Dougie Hamilton (1 Assist/4 Shots/3 Hits)
Looking Ahead: The Bruins will have a quick turn-around after this one, with a game against the Rangers set for 7:00 PM tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Michigan Fan. Street Hockey Agitator. My work has been featured at the New England and New York Hockey Journals, The Hockey Guys, and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com!