But the Caps were finally able to solve the Slovakian netminder late in the third on a T.J. Oshie tally with the extra attacker, and they ultimately came away with a 3-2 shootout win on Jakub Vrana's dazzling goal in the skills competition.
Video: WSH@BOS: Vrana toe-drags, roofs shot in shootout
After watching Halak routinely thwart him and his teammates' best scoring bids all night long, Vrana had an idea of what he needed and wanted to do as he went to center ice for just the second shootout attempt of his career.
In the top of the fifth round of the shootout, Vrana cruised in, got Halak to bite on a toe drag, then calmly lifted the puck over Halak's left pad. When Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped B's winger Chris Wagner, the Caps shipped out of Boston with a pair of points on a night where it looked like they might be saddled with a hard luck loss in regulation.
"He was hot all game," says Vrana of Halak. "He had some big saves in the game, and in a situation like this, I just felt like you've got to do something different to put the puck through him. I think it was just good execution, that's it."
Video: Postgame Locker Room | November 16
"Oh man," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "That was an outstanding move. I haven't seen that very often from him in practice, even. That was good, but certainly he has elite skill and has been able to score on breakaways this year, so I felt pretty confident. I wasn't sure what move he was going with, and I definitely didn't think it was going to be that one. Huge win, and some huge saves by Braden as well."
The victory is Washington's fifth straight on the road, with all five requiring overtime and three of the five coming in the shootout. The Caps have now earned a point in nine straight road games (8-0-1), and their 10-1-1 overall road mark is tops in the league this season.
Seeking to bounce back from a mediocre Friday night performance at home in a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps were up against an elite - albeit injury-battered - Bruins squad in Boston on Saturday night, a night after the B's earned a 4-2 road win over the Leafs in Toronto.
Shortly after the Caps failed to cash in on the game's first power play opportunity in the first period, the Bruins drew first blood. As the Bruins worked the puck around the perimeter of the Washington zone, Charlie Coyle found a soft spot in coverage in the slot. Stationed at the left half wall, Danton Heinen found Coyle, and the latter buried a one-time shot for a 1-0 Boston lead at 11:32.
Video: WSH@BOS: Boyd redirects Carlson's shot past Halak
The Caps pulled even late in the frame, getting a fourth-line goal in the immediate aftermath of the final television timeout of the first. After Travis Boyd lost a right dot draw in the Boston end, Chandler Stephenson put some forechecking heat on the Bruins defense below the goal line. Michal Kempny crept down from the left point to help out, blunting Paul Carey's clearing bid. Brendan Leipsic kept it in at the left point and fired a cross-ice feed to John Carlson. Carlson let a shot fly, and Boyd tipped it past Halak to knot the score at 1-1 at 14:27.
Sent down to AHL Hershey five days ago, Boyd was recalled on Saturday morning and installed into the Washington lineup. He made his presence felt right away.
"It's been a pretty crazy 24 hours for me, I guess," says Boyd. "But I'm happy to be back up here, and extremely happy to contribute to a big win tonight against a good opponent on the road."
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | November 16
The Bruins regained the lead early in the second period. Kempny turned the puck over to David Pastrnak deep in the Caps' zone, and after Charlie McAvoy missed a mostly empty net opportunity wide to the right, Pastrnak quickly pulled the puck off the lively back wall and buried a shot from the goal line on the right side of the cage, making it a 2-1 game at 3:30.
The Caps continued to pour shots on Halak, and he continued to stop every single one of them. Washington also clanked a couple of shots off the iron, including a rocket of a one-timer from Carlson late in regulation.
Washington accomplished its mission of a strong rebound game after Friday's subpar outing against the Canadiens, but it trailed by a goal late because Halak turned aside everything sent his way, save for Boyd's deflection.
Down a goal late, the Caps got Holtby off for an extra attacker, and Oshie tied the game with Washington's league-leading fifth goal at 6-on-5 this season. Taking a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, Oshie drilled a shot by Halak from the slot at 19:01 of the third.
Video: WSH@BOS: Oshie rips one-timer past Halak to tie game
"I think we're getting very familiar with what we've got to do," says Oshie of his team's 6-on-5 success this season. "I think we're throwing a lot of pucks to the net, and we're in very good position to support the puck if things go wrong.
"Tonight was another one of those; they had a chance to clear it, and we got it back and figured out a way to break them down."
That set the stage for a wildly entertaining overtime, and then the skills session, the third time in four games this week the Caps have gone to the shootout. Nicklas Backstrom and Vrana were able to dent the Boston goaltender in the shootout.
"He was our best player by far," says Boston coach Bruce Cassidy of Halak. "Disappointing that we couldn't finish it, because I thought in our third period we really bought into what we needed to do."
Video: Vrana nets shootout winner to lead Caps past Bruins
"He was awesome," says Coyle of Halak. "He doesn't deserve a loss like that. He played great. He was huge early on, I mean, the whole game, really. They made their pushes, and we kind of broke down defensively in our own zone. Just pucks coming through and him shutting the door. He kept us in the lead, kept us in the game. He was great for us."
Indeed, he was. But while Halak may have deserved a better fate on this night, the Caps certainly earned the two points they took home, too.
"There was no cheat in our game," says Reirden. "It was a full team effort. That was a really good two points, because I thought our team deserved it tonight. Other times we've gotten two points when we didn't deserve it. Tonight, we did."