The Washington Capitals set aside their two-game losing streak on Tuesday night and defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-2, at TD Garden in Boston. The win allowed the Caps to jump over the Dallas Stars to take the league lead in standings points (61) and wins (29).
The Caps opened the scoring 15 minutes into the contest on a goal by Andre Burakovsky. It was the product of a long journey in the moment for the young forward. As Evgeny Kuznetsov was working the puck along the wall with Landon Ferraro hounding him, Burakovsky took a long loop out of the offensive zone, curled around to the weak side, and made his way down the left wing. The Bruins seemed to be spellbound watching Kuznetsov, because Burakovsky ended up in open space in the left wing faceoff circle. Kuznetsov spied him and threaded a pass through the slot onto Burakovsky’s stick. Burakovsky finished the play, snapping the puck past goalie Tuukka Rask’s blocker on the short side to make it 1-0.
Kuznetsov called his own number in the second period to double the Caps’ lead. On a power play, he took a cross-ice feed from Nicklas Backstrom at the Boston blue line and skated down the right wing wall. Cut off by Dennis Seidenberg, Kuznetsov stopped and retreated up the wall a couple of steps. His passing lane blocked by Max Talbot, he curled into the circle, changed his shooting angle to work around Seidenberg, and wristed the puck over Rask’s left shoulder at the 12:40 mark to make it 2-0.
Boston got within a goal later in the period when Loui Eriksson finished a smartly executed play in the Caps’ zone, converting a Brett Connolly feed to beat goalie Braden Holtby past his blocker.
The Caps restored their two goal lead mid-way through the second period when Marcus Johansson answered the bell, or more precisely, the “ping.” Dmitry Orlov took a pass from Nate Schmidt and fired a shot at the Bruin net that rang off the far post past Rask. Johansson was set up at the top of the crease to take advantage of any rebound, and with Seidenberg unable to tie him up, he was able to flip the puck past Rask to make it 3-1, 10:41 into the period.
Boston closed to within a goal one more time just over a minute later on a Patrice Bergeron shot that was deflected by Justin Williams’ stick and beat Holtby on the far side, but that would be as close as they would get. Holtby turned away the Bruins’ last six shots and held them off for the last 101 second as the Bruins pulled Rask for an extra attacker to seal the 3-2 win.
-- Holtby is now 17-0-2 in his last 20 appearances. In those 20 appearances he has a goals against average of 1.88, a save percentage of .938, and he has two shutouts. He leads the league overall in wins (25), and among goalies with at least 1,000 minutes played he is first in goals against average (1.93) and second in save percentage (.932).
-- Kuznetsov’s two points (goal, assist) gives him 37 on the season in his 39th game, tying his career high set last season in 80 games. It was his 11th multi-point game of the season, tied for fifth in the league on that list.
-- After going 25 games without a goal, Andre Burakovsky scored his second goal in four games.
-- The Caps won their 29th game in their 39th contest of the season. They did not win their 29th game last season until Game 55.
-- Patrice Bergeron wins faceoffs, a lot. He was 14-for-20 in this game, but the Caps were 21-for-33 against everyone else for a 27-26 edge overall.
-- The 3-2 win was the Caps’ 12th one-goal win this season. While they are tied for fifth in one-goal wins, their .706 winning percentage (12-2-3) is best in the league.
-- Aaron Ness recorded an assist on the Burakovsky goal, his first point as a Capital.
-- With Jay Beagle on the shelf for a while, Andre Burakovsky might have to take over as good luck charm. The Caps are 7-0-2 in games in which he recorded a point so far this season and undefeated (4-0-0) in games in which he scored a goal.
-- Zach Sill was credited with a team high five hits in just 7:57 of ice time. One of them came early in the second period on Adam McQuaid (the second in a two-hit sequence on McQuaid over 40 seconds) that left McQuaid injured on the ice. No penalty was called. McQuaid (who was coming to what would be the end of a 1:13 shift) was playing the puck and turned as Sill made contact, the momentum forcing him into the glass. McQuaid did not return.
-- Nate Schmidt gets the coupon for the all-you-can-eat buffet… an assist, plus-1, three shots on goal, two shots blocked, a missed shot attempt, one hit, two giveaways, a takeaway, and two blocked shots in 18:43 of ice time.
In the end…
What can you say. This was a simple, workman-like road win. The Caps out-attempted the Bruins (55-52), out-shot them (29-27), and out-played them by enough of a margin to post another two points on the ledger. With a 1-1-1 record on this five-game road trip they head to New York for their first game in the Islanders’ new arena in Brooklyn and for a return engagement against a Ranger team that they defeated soundly on the same ice sheet in the week before Christmas. It will not be easy, but the Caps have shown an ability to win hard games, as they did against Boston on Tuesday night.