April 14, 2012

Backstrom strikes in 2OT, sends series back to D.C. tied 1-1

By Jesse Connolly

Final: Washington 2, Boston 1 (2OT)

Recap: After yet another scoreless period in this series, it took until the 17:57 mark of the middle frame for either team to get on the board. Washington went ahead 1-0 when Troy Brouwer reached past a sprawled out Greg Zanon and poked the puck through Tim Thomas’ legs before the B’s netminder could cover it up.

With things looking grim in the third, Benoit Pouliot rushed in and pounced on a rebound with 7:47 left in regulation. He managed to swat it over Braden Holtby to tie things up at 1-1.

Thomas and Holtby stopped all 19 shots they faced in the first overtime before the Bruins and Caps headed to a second extra session. With 2:56 gone in double overtime, Nicklas Backstrom took a feed from Marcus Johansson in the left circle and snapped it past Thomas, giving the Capitals a 2-1 victory.

Series: Bruins and Capitals tied 1-1.

Key Play of the Game: Holtby made a number of clutch stops, and the Bruins blew a number of scoring chances, but it’s hard to neglect the winning strike in 2OT here. Backstrom won the faceoff to his left but Johnny Boychuk had a chance to corral the puck or – at the very least – send it up the boards. He swung and missed. Johansson grabbed it, made the pass and the rest was history.

Connolly’s Commendations: Gotta feel bad for Thomas in this one. Much like Holtby was in Game 1, the reigning Conn Smythe winner was the tough-luck loser, stopping 37-of-39 in the losing effort.

For the second-straight game, the line of Pouliot, Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly literally accounted for all of Boston’s offense. The two wingers assisted on Kelly’s OT strike on Thursday, while Rolston and Kelly each picked up helpers on Pouliot’s third period goal. The line was a consistent threat all game and accounted for eight of Boston’s 44 shots on goal.

Guess we can’t ignore Holtby here, right? The rookie might not have had to stand on his head for the 82-plus minutes of action, but there’s no way you can describe a performance that saw him stop 43-of-44 shots as anything other than awesome.

Connolly’s Critiques: David Krejci was a complete and utter letdown throughout most of his 27:57 of ice time. While the center did have one of Boston’s best bids in the first two periods, cutting across the slot and forcing Holtby to make a nice save, No. 46 just didn’t have any real sustained offensive pressure alongside linemates Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley. Throw in a 1-of-9 (11%) showing at the dot (where he was kicked out repeatedly) and you’ve got yourself one bad showing.

On paper, the numbers don’t look so bad for Joe Corvo. The much-maligned defenseman was the only player with a positive plus-minus rating (+1), one of two Bruins with multiple blocked shots and saw 20:36 of ice time. But the good old eye test showed Corvo’s true shortcomings in this one. His shakiness in his own zone throughout overtime and constant ability to get pucks out nearly cost the Bruins on countless occasions in the extra session. Both he and partner Greg Zanon gave anyone rooting for Boston the jitters every time they hopped over the boards in overtime.

Notes: Brouwer’s goal was the first puck Thomas had allowed past him in the playoffs since Alex Burrows’ tally 17:34 into the third period of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup finals. Washington effectively stole home-ice advantage, as three of the possible five games remaining in the series will take place in D.C. The Capitals held an absurd 27-8 edge in blocked shots.

Final Thoughts: This one stings for dozens of reasons, but chief among them is the number of times Holtby coughed up juicy rebounds in overtime and the B’s couldn’t capitalize. One goal on 44 shots isn’t going to get it done. The Bruins need to regroup and actually find a way to stop getting more than half of their attempted shots blocked by the Capitals.

Next: The Bruins and Capitals will return to action on Monday down in Washington for Game 3.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.