Now it’s a series.
The Washington Capitals outlasted the Boston Bruins this afternoon at TD Garden, grinding out a 2-1 win in double overtime. As is often the case in a sudden victory overtime situation, the end came swiftly and unexpectedly when Nicklas Backstrom converted a Marcus Johansson feed after a Bruin faceoff win, beating Tim Thomas under his right arm on the short side before a stunned TD Garden crowd.
If Game 1 was the coming out party for goalie Braden Holtby, then Game 2 was his being the glue that kept the Caps together until they could find a way to solve Bruin goalie Tim Thomas. After stopping 29 of 30 shots in Game 1, he stopped all but one of the 44 shots he faced in this one. He allowed a goal by Benoit Pouilot when he tried to poke check the puck off Pouliot’s tick as the Bruin forward was releasing a shot, but was otherwise perfect.
Holtby almost made a goal by Troy Brouwer late in the second period stand up. Brouwer swatted in a loose puck that neither Tim Thomas could not cover up, nor defenseman Greg Zanon could sweep away as he was getting tangled up with Brouwer at the edge of the Boston crease. But after the Bruins tied the game, Holtby stopped the last 16 shots over the final 30:43, and Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom did the rest.
-- This was the third time in franchise history the Caps opened a playoff series with two overtime games. It is the first time it has happened on the road. The Caps won Games 1 and 2 in overtime at home against the New York Islanders in 1985, while they split Game 1 and 2 in overtime at home against the Montreal Canadiens in 2010.
-- Braden Holtby has stopped 72 of 74 shots in his first two playoff games with the Capitals (.973 save percentage). It is not the best save percentage performance in the first playoff two games for a Caps goalie. Michal Neuvirth stopped 46 of 47 shots in Games 1 and 2 in last year’s opening playoff round against the Rangers (.979). Semyon Varlamov stopped 56 of 57 shots in his first two NHL playoff games in 2009 against the Rangers (.983).
-- Do the playoffs ramp up intensity? The Caps had 15 of 18 skaters record hits, 11 of 18 skaters record at least one blocked shot. Karl Alzner recorded five of each. The next highest combo total for either team – Boston’s Johnny Boychuk (three of each), Troy Brouwer (six hits), Roman Hamrlik (two hits, four blocked shots) and Mike Green (three of each).
-- Zdeno Chara was on the ice for 26 of Alex Ovechkin’s 31 shifts. One of the ones he missed, Ovechkin threw the puck at the net, and when Tim Thomas couldn’t cover it in time, Troy Brouwer swatted it in. That was against the Greg Zanon-Johnny Boychuk pair. Otherwise, here was the shift-by-shift matchup (shift data from http://timeonice.com):
(click pic for larger image)
-- When Troy Brouwer scored at 17:57 of the second period it broke a scoreless streak of 132:59 for the Caps dating back to the second period of the 4-1 win over the Rangers in the regular season finale.
-- Jay Beagle was 10-for-13 on defensive zone faceoffs (11-for-17 for the game overall). He was .500 or better in the defensive zone against all six Bruins he faced.
-- At least the Caps managed shots on goal on their power play – seven in all on three power plays (5:59 in total power play time). Still, the Caps are 2-for-29 on the power play over their last 11 games (6.9 percent).
-- On the other side, the Caps killed off both Bruin power plays, making them 32-for-34 (94.1 percent) over their last 14 games.
-- Secondary scoring… it would be nice to get it. But it will be hard with Mathieu Perreault without a shot on goal in two games (one shot attempt), Jason Chimera with two shots on goal (three attempts, none in Game 2), Joel Ward with three shots (four attempts, one of them in Game 2).
-- Defensive pairs…two Caps pairs (Green/Hamrlik, Carlson/Alzner) have not had a goal scored against while they have been on ice. The leaves the Dennis Wideman/Jeff Schultz pair as the one that has been on ice for both Bruin goals so far.
In the end, the Caps got what they needed – a split in Boston. And if anything, the win in Game 2 might provide some momentum as the team returns home for Monday’s game. And how they won matters. Troy Brouwer went to the net and beat Tim Thomas to a loose puck. Marcus Johansson worked well down low to nullify a Boston faceoff win and send a pass to Nicklas Backstrom for the game-winner. Neither was necessarily pretty, except in result. What they were was the product of work. And that is what the Caps are going to have to keep doing, because it is still “first to four.”