- Following the first 40 minutes and change of hockey Saturday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the Bruins' night was shaping up to be one of breakouts executed through the middle, offense created off the rush, and a chance to run all four lines.
Milan Lucic had the jump and recorded just his fourth multi-point game of the season, the first where he notched both a goal and an assist. He first put the B's on the board and then drew a paper trail of Caps' defensemen towards the net to give Andrew Ference the lane for his fourth of the season.
The Merlot line brought energy, created chances. The fast-paced game saw both teams each having only one power play apiece through the second period.
But at the end of the night, the B's effort was marred by Washington's league-leading man-advantage netting three straight power-play goals to earn the 3-2 win in overtime.
"We played a pretty good game, just penalties, they cost us," said Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, who made 34 saves. "It's always disappointing when you're up by two goals and you lose the game by power-play goals. We've got to be satisfied with how we played five-on-five."
The Bruins went into the third up 2-0 on Washington, and holding a 15-4-3 record when leading after two periods this season. Though, the last time around in D.C. was top of mind, as the B's had taken a 3-0 lead in the first back on March 5 before falling 4-3 in overtime.
The trend towards a similar outcome came with the Bruins on the penalty kill five minutes into the third. Mike Green let go a deadly wrister from the slot that found its way through traffic in front. Rask immediately showed his frustration. The Caps defenseman followed that up just over two minutes later to knot the game at 2-2.
"They're pretty skilled. You tip your hat to them on what they can do when they have the man advantage," said forward Shawn Thornton, of Washington's power play that went into the game leading the NHL at 25.8-percent and ended the season with 44 power-play goals.
"Our killers have been great all year, but [the Caps] capitalized tonight. That was the difference."
Green also factored into the third goal allowed by the B's penalty kill, an OT-winner from Eric Fehr, who had scored the winner in extra time back in March to complete the Caps' rally over Boston then.
"Obviously, their power play is the one that killed us tonight and we knew that coming into the game, that we had to stay out of the penalty box," said Coach Julien following the game. "And unfortunately they got some pretty good power plays there in the third period that gave them that momentum that they were looking for."
The Caps came out with the win, but with only one game now remaining in the regular season for the Bruins - against Ottawa on Sunday night - they're focusing on the positives and don't feel there's any point in breeding negativity at this juncture, with the postseason on the immediate horizon.
"Other than [the Caps' power-plays], I thought the first period we talked about cutting down on some of the unforced errors we were making, a little bit more poise and decision-making, and I thought in the second period we did a good job of that," said Julien.
"In the third period, until we got those penalties, we were just playing a good, solid third period and then those penalties ended up costing us in the end."
"I thought we played well," added Thornton. "We got ourselves into penalty trouble and it ended up catching up to us. But five-on-five I thought we were a pretty good team. We've still got to shore up some stuff in our own end, but they're a pretty skilled team up front. They're gonna get their chances."
"We can't really dwell on this one, we've got a big one tomorrow now. We made it tougher for ourselves, but we got a point, so two tomorrow and we're going to be where we want anyways."
The B's will certainly be looking to bring their strong five-on-five play into tomorrow, cleaning up any breakdowns, while taking the positives. A few points of emphasis were their breakouts through the middle, and the Bruins being quickly to move the puck up ice and establish a north-south game.
"I think our D-men did a great job breaking out the puck and we really got things moving in the neutral zone and on the rush," said Lucic. "I think especially in the first two periods it was creating a lot of opportunities for us and resulted in that second goal. We also had a lot of other chances that we didn't bury on."
"Hopefully this is the last time we have to learn this lesson where we've given up a lead going into the third period. Lots to look forward to going into tomorrow. We're in control of our destiny to play for first in the division."
On Sunday night, the Bruins can clinch the Northeast Division with a win over the Ottawa Senators.
"We had some good moments, we had some desperation," said Captain Zdeno Chara postgame. "We just got to focus on that in tomorrow's game."
Lucic Gaining Confidence
It's no secret that Milan Lucic has had a tough 2013. Luckily for the B's, he seems to be turning a corner heading into the playoffs. In Thursday's 2-0 win over Tampa, he brought physicality, landed four hits and became a threat once again on the ice.
As consistency is key moving forward, the burly forward responded by continuing his play into Saturday night, netting a goal and an assist, recording two hits and putting up four shots on Braden Holtby.
"Especially after today, I felt really good with the puck, I felt like I made a lot of good plays and also felt like I was moving my feet," said Lucic, who showcased his strong skating ability throughout the game. "Like I said, that's been the main thing I've been focusing on these last couple games. Want to keep building and building so it will be where it needs to be next week."
"He's getting there. I thought he was a real good player for us tonight. Probably one of our better ones, to be honest with you, up front," said Coach Julien. "It's nice to see him find his game and looking forward to seeing that continue."
Merlot in Stride
The Merlot Line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton has been reunited for a string of games now, and with the B's playing strong five-on-five, it allowed the energy liners to contribute with more ice-time.
"I think every year we surprise you," said Shawn Thornton, of his line being able to contribute "in spurts" as he labeled it. "Things are going well, Piesy and Soupy have been playing really well. We could have had a few tonight, and that being said, had we have buried a couple, it would have been a different game. As far as forechecking, offensive zone time, I think we were doing a pretty good job of that lately."
Jagr Battling Flu, Daugavins In
Jaromir Jagr was not in the lineup for the Bruins, as he stayed back in Boston fighting a flu-bug that caused him to miss Friday's practice as well.
"It’s just the flu, so he should be good maybe [Sunday]," said Coach Julien. "That’s what we’ve done, that’s why we’ve kept him away for a couple of days. The doctors will decide if it’s still something that’s contagious or not and we’ll play it by ear."
Kaspars Daugavins assumed the wing in his place alongside Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg, in his first game since April 13. The forward logged 12:10 in ice time, including time on the penalty kill (0:49), recording two shots and three hits. When Rich Peverley went to the box in the third, Daugavins played a shift with David Krejci and Milan Lucic after the Caps converted on the power play. Coach Julien usually likes to put out the Krejci line right after the penalty kill.
Horton Possibly Ready for Playoffs
Nathan Horton has been out with an upper-body injury since leaving the game against Pittsburgh on April 20, causing him to miss the past four games.
"I wouldn’t say 100 percent," said Coach Julien prior to Saturday's tilt with Washington, on the chances of Horton being available to start the playoffs. "To us right now, that’s the main goal [for him to be 100 percent]. He should be ready for us."
"But again, those are always hard things to kind of pinpoint, depends on when we start and everything else, but he’s skating, he’s progressing, he’s doing much better, so we anticipate - and our goal is - to certainly have him back by then."