WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins finally found a way through the Washington Capitals' surprisingly stout defense, and they regained control of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series in the process.
Zdeno Chara scored with 1:53 left in the third period to give the Bruins a 4-3 win and a 2-1 lead in the series. Washington had earned a split at TD Garden with compact defense and by matching the physical play of the defending champs, but the Bruins grabbed control of a back-and-forth contest by outmuscling the Capitals.
"The fact of the matter is there's no pretty plays out there in the playoffs," Boston forward Brian Rolston said. "If you watch any of the games -- well, there might be a few in the Pittsburgh [series] -- but there's not a whole of pretty goals out there. Everybody is blocking shots. Everybody is crowding the net. You just throw pucks at the front of your net and do your best to get rebounds."
Chara's goal came with the teams playing 4-on-4 because Milan Lucic was in the penalty box for the third time in the game because of post-whistle infractions. Chara's defense partner, Dennis Seidenberg, went toward the net and engaged Washington's Roman Hamrlik.
The shot from the right point went off Hamrlik's stick and past rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, who had stopped 72 of 74 shots in Boston, but turned away only 25 of 29 in this contest.
"I think we are going to see more of the same," Holtby said of the extra traffic in front of the nets. "I didn't have my best game and I'm going to try to respond in Game 4. It's just hard work. It's not that we're not doing it, it's just as a group we know we can do better, myself especially. If we do, we'll be successful."
Boston had struggled to get those types of shots to the net in the first two games, and the Bruins were unable to convert any rebound opportunities when they did. That changed around the midpoint of this contest.
Daniel Paille, who earned Boston's "no weak links" chain after the game, collected the rebound of a Greg Zanon shot and backhanded it into the net to tie the score at two at 9:38 of the second period.
Rolston put the Bruins in front 62 seconds into the final period with another rebound tally. There was a large scramble in front of Washington's net after a Chara shot, and Rolston was able to chop at the loose puck and knock it through Holtby's legs.
"We felt that we won a lot more battles today and that's how we have to play -- especially against a team like that who has changed their ways a little bit from the past," Paille said.
Chara's goal was the first scored in this series by one of Boston's star players. Paille, Rolston, Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly have scored for the Bruins while Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, David Krecji and Lucic have combined for no goals and one assist -- Bergeron made the point-to-point pass on Chara's winning goal.
The Capitals missed an opportunity to steal control of this series, and after they controlled the play for longer in this contest than they did in either of the previous two. Alexander Semin scored 16:00 into the opening period on the power play, and Alex Ovechkin scored 13 seconds after Rich Peverley tied it in the opening minute of the second.
Nicklas Backstrom made a beautiful bank pass off the right wall from his own goal line to Brooks Laich, who slipped behind Chara and Seidenberg and beat Tim Thomas with a nifty finish at 14:00 of the third period to tie this game at three, but Backstrom had a final six minutes to forget.
Backstrom took a cross-checking penalty, his second such infraction of the game, with 3:14 left and was in the box when Chara scored. To make matters worse, he earned a match penalty after the game ended for cross-checking Peverley. That carries an automatic one-game suspension pending an official review by the League's Department of Player Safety.
"Well, they gave him a match, but I think the League will review it and rescind it," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "It wasn't ... if you see it, it's not bad."
Semin had the lone goal of the first period, and it was the first power-play tally of this series. With Chara in the box for roughing, Semin gloved down a puck at the top of the offensive zone, collected it and his shot deflected off a Bruins stick and through Thomas' legs at 16:00 of the opening period.
Backstrom and Lucic began the second period in the penalty box because of a scrum after the final whistle in the first, and the extra room on the ice led to an explosion of offense.
Peverley tied the score at one 35 seconds into the period when Holtby was unable to catch his shot from the left wing. It glanced off Holtby's glove and into bounced across the goal line.
Ovechkin answered 13 seconds later. Laich sent the puck into the offensive zone and Ovechkin won the race to it before winding up for a shot that was dulled by Seidenberg's stick and fooled Thomas.
There will be an extra off day before Game 4 on Thursday, which leaves more time for the building tension in this series to increase.
"You have to have control of emotion regardless. If you go over the top and you lose your focus, then that is something that is not in the cards for us," Rolston said. "I thought as the game went on there was more emotion from both teams and I'm sure it will continue to ramp up as the series goes on. For the most part, it is about playing between the whistles and playing hard."