BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins hoped not to leave North America on such a down note.
The Bruins dropped a 4-1 decision to Washington at TD Garden on Wednesday night as Nicklas Backstrom scored a pair of goals and the goalie duo of journeyman Dany Sabourin and Braden Holtby held Boston's offense in check. Boston also lost to Washington on Tuesday night in the front end of this home-and-home series.
Sabourin stopped all 12 shots he faced and Holtby, an emergency replacement for the injured Semyon Varlamov, allowed only a power-play goal by Mark Recchi halfway through the third period.
Not exactly the way the Bruins wanted to play before heading across the Atlantic.
"I still think our effort wasn't a very good effort tonight, and I think they realize it," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We're in the stage now where we have really cut down to our team. Camp is over, let's start working. We have about nine or 10 days here until the real deal starts here and we should use that time to make our team better."
Boston left shortly after Wednesday night's game for a two-country European excursion that will run from Sept. 30 to Oct. 10 and culminate with a pair of regular-season games in Prague against the Phoenix Coyotes as part of the NHL's 2010 Compuware Premiere initiative.
Boston will also play exhibition games against an All-Star team from England's top league in Belfast, Northern Ireland, this Saturday and a game against Czech league club Liberec on Tuesday.
Wednesday's game was most notable for the return of Tim Thomas to the crease for Boston. But things did not work out the way the veteran goaltender had hoped -- he allowed four goals on the first 15 shots he faced.
Thomas, making his first appearance of the preseason, went the distance for the Bruins and did not appear to be favoring his hip much in making 20 saves and handling several goalmouth scrambles. Thomas had the labrum in his left hip surgically repaired this summer.
"The hip and legs felt really good," Thomas said. "Overall, I felt good, but did not get the results I wanted, obviously. But I passed the physical test."
While Thomas is on the mend, things are not as good for veteran center Marc Savard, who will not make the trip to Europe. Savard is suffering from post-concussion syndrome and, according to Boston GM Peter Chiarelli, is not up to making the trip to Europe.
"He's not going to start with us," Chiarelli told reporters Wednesday morning during the team's media day. "He may join us. We're putting him on a seven- ... eight-day plan while we're gone, to see doctors.
"He's got to ramp up his physical activity just to get to the exertion test, so there's a lot of protocol we have to go through and we decided we'd be better having him here with the guidance of our doctors. We've got a physical therapy group here too that will work with him and start his conditioning, so he's got to go through a number of steps, better served here than over there."
Savard's absence put a new focus on the attempts of rookies Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron to make the team. Both players played Wednesday night.
Sequin, who was playing wing early in camp, moved to center for Wednesday night's game, perhaps in an audition as cover for Savard's absence. He played between Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler, though his best chances of the night came on the power-play unit, including a second-period dipsy-doo that was denied by Sabourin.
Caron played the wing on a line with Recchi and Patrice Bergeron and had flashes of brilliance but did not have the consistent effort that has made the 2009 first-round pick one of the most talked-about players in Boston's camp.
The Capitals, who won the Eastern Conference last season, don't have many roster questions, but did give some intriguing players some ice time as they improved to 4-0.
The recently signed Matt Hendricks played and sent an early message by fighting Gregory Campbell off the game's opening faceoff in what appeared to be retaliation for Campbell's dust-up with Caps' star Alex Ovechkin in Tuesday's game in DC. Ovechkin did not play Wednesday.
Mathieu Perreault, the high-scoring winger who had limited duty with the Caps last year, also saw action in this game, as did Swedish forward Marcus Johansson, who has appeared in all four Washington games this preseason.
But, it was the play of three-year vet Backstrom that set the tone as he scored the game's first two goals -- one after a turnover by the Boston defense and the second on a tip of a shot by defenseman Jeff Schultz.
Youngster Andrew Gordon and vet Matt Bradley scored Washington's other goals.