BOSTON – They’ll need resiliency and the ability to win on the road if the Washington Capitals are going to qualify for the postseason and maybe even win the Southeast Division title.
The Capitals showed both Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
Jay Beagle broke a tie with a goal at 11:22 of the second period and Washington hung on despite being outshot heavily in the third period to defeat the Boston Bruins, 4-3, for their second straight road victory.
Washington, which won at Toronto back on Feb. 25, hadn’t put together consecutive road wins since Dec. 7 and 15. The Capitals’ newly-found ability to win away from home couldn’t have come at a better time because they have a five-game road trip coming up after a home game with Toronto on Sunday.
“We are worried about our overall record and it is what it is,” said Washington forward Brooks Laich when asked about the modest road winning streak. “We’ve just got to approach the games, just focus on today. I think that we play five of our next six on the road but that wasn’t in nobody’s mind today. It was come here and try to get the job done. I’m happy with the guys, I thought we played a really good game, should be proud of themselves. We’ll get out of here, get back and then do it again [Sunday].”
The Capitals are now just one point behind idle Florida for first place in the Southeast. In the thick of a four-team race for the division crown, Washington couldn’t afford to leave any points behind in a game it squandered an early two-goal lead.
Washington was up 2-0 before Boston cut the lead in half on a Milan Lucic goal with just six seconds remaining in the first period. With 4:58 elapsed in the second period, Brad Marchand erased the rest of the Capitals’ lead.
“It’s a coach’s worst nightmare when a team scores late in a period like that,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “They came out and tied it up too, but we just kept pushing.”
Beagle took advantage of some scrambling defense by the Bruins after Boston blueliners Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg collided near the Washington net. Alexander Semin dug the puck out of the corner and fed it to Beagle for the goal that put the Capitals ahead to stay with 8:38 to go before the second intermission.
Later in the period, Laich took advantage of the Bruins’ third straight minor penalty to provide a needed insurance goal. The center tipped home an elevated pass by defenseman Dennis Wideman for a 4-2 lead with 2:29 left in the second.
“We had good movement,” Laich said about the power play. “One of the things that we did really well was recover the puck. You know, we went over video before and we thought that there were areas where we could expose them. On our goal, I had two shots on that shift before I scored. So, it was in our talk before that our power play was getting one look, and that was it. Tonight we got those second and third opportunities and that was when the penalty killers were tired and you’re going to make mistakes when you’re tired.”
Johnny Boychuk scored a goal with 3:13 remaining in regulation to trim the Washington lead back to one. The Bruins had a few extra-attacker opportunities to score but were thwarted by Tomas Vokoun, who finished with 30 saves on 33 shots. Boston outshot Washington 13-2 in the final period.
“That’s a tough team to really sustain any pressure against them when they’re coming at you hard like that,” Wideman said. “And obviously, this year, we haven’t been in a whole lot of situations where we’ve had that lead and learned how to keep pushing at it. We might’ve sat back a little more than we’d liked to but you’ve got to hand it to them, they came at us hard.”
Maybe the Bruins wouldn’t have needed a late rally had they started the game with the same effort level as the Capitals. Semin scored on a rebound 7:50 into the game. Matt Hendricks followed with another goal 25 seconds later for a 2-0 lead and a 12-5 edge in shots on net.
With his team down two goals before the 10-minute mark for the second time in four games [the Bruins also fell behind 2-0 early to the New York Rangers last Sunday], Boston coach Claude Julien called a timeout. Whatever happened in the timeout worked, as Boston outshot the Capitals 8-1 the rest of the way and started its only successful rally of the game.
“I can’t really put a finger on it. You just got to be ready,” said Boychuk. “They can score two goals in the first 10 minutes, it’s not really acceptable especially when we talk before the game that we want a good start. That’s not the start we wanted, as soon as we called the timeout it was like night and day. ... We have to play the way we did in the third period, the whole 60 minutes, and if we do that there shouldn’t be any problems."