May 19 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden, Game 3
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: NBCSW, NBCSN
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 99.1 FM
Series even at 1-1
Following a pair of entertaining overtime contests in Washington, the scene now shifts north for the Capitals and Bruins in their best-of-seven first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series. With the set even at 1-1, the two teams are ready to tangle in Wednesday's Game 3 in Boston.
Nic Dowd's overtime goal gave the Caps a 1-0 series lead in Saturday's opener, but Boston bounced back with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 2 on Brad Marchand's goal in the first minute of the extra session.
"It's a good feeling to go back [to Boston] 1-1," says Marchand. "We obviously went through it last game, and it's tough to lose in overtime."
The Bruins' top six was quiet in Game 1, but they accounted for three of Boston's four goals in Monday's Game 2, including Taylor Hall's tying tally with 2:49 remaining in regulation and Marchand's game-winner.
For most of the final quarter of the regular season, the Caps excelled at shot suppression. Washington surrendered an average of 26.6 shots per game from the April 12 trade deadline to the end of the season, the sixth best rate in the League over that span.
Boston poured 48 pucks on veteran goaltender Craig Anderson in Game 2, matching the most shots surrendered by the Caps in a single game during the regular season. Buffalo outshot Washington 48-31 in a 4-3 shootout win for the Sabres in the District on Jan. 24, in the sixth game of the regular season.
The Caps limited Boston to 26 shots on net in Game 1.
"Obviously they got a couple more pucks through," says Caps winger Garnet Hathaway of the Bruins' Game 2 performance. "And I'm sure that was their game plan, to shoot the puck a lot more. I thought Andy played great. He played a great game, and that's what kept us in it. I thought we played well, but we didn't play well enough."
Video: Postgame | Garnet Hathaway
Boston was the top face-off team in the NHL during the regular season, finishing the season at 55.3 percent. The Caps had a bit of a face-off surge during the season after a dismal start, but they still finished 22nd in the circuit with a 49.2 percent success rate.
In the first two games of this series, the Bruins have been dominant on the dot, winning 61.5 percent of all face-offs, and winning 71.4 percent of all draws in their defensive zone.
Despite being on the wrong end of that lopsided disparity, the Caps held their own in puck possession in Game 1, but not so much in Game 2 when Boston had 60.6 percent of all even-strength shot attempts. From the start of the second period to Marchand's game-winner in Game 2, the Bruins owned 65.1 percent of all shot attempts.
"The face-offs definitely matter," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "That's possession, that's clear-cut possession. Either you're creating offense in the offensive zone, or a chance to break out from the defensive zone and get out of your end, or to establish the direction in the neutral zone. There is no question that it matters. We'll try to look at it and continue to see if there are things that we can do."
The Caps' face-off woes were compounded on Monday when Lars Eller left the game with a lower body injury midway through the second period. That left the Caps with only two natural centers in the lineup in Nicklas Backstrom and Dowd. Evgeny Kuznetsov has been missing from the Washington lineup since May 1.
"When you lose two centermen, their job is to take face-offs," says Laviolette. "When you've got a couple out of the lineup, it becomes a little more challenging. But we'll continue to work on it."
Even with the disparity in face-offs and possession, the Caps had an excellent opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead with them to Boston after Hathaway's second goal of the game gave them a 2-0 lead at 7:04 of the third. After taking that lead, the Caps were diligent and consistent at getting pucks deep and making the Bruins come 200 feet for any scoring opportunities. But Washington didn't spend much time in the Boston end hanging onto pucks and wearing down the Boston defense.
With just under three minutes left in regulation, Hall got hold of an unsecured puck during a goalmouth scramble and he punched it home, setting the stage for Marchand.
"I think it's a tough call," says Dowd. "As much as you want to hold onto pucks and make plays down low [in the Boston end], the ice - the pucks are bouncing. And [the Bruins] are looking for offense, so they're cheating the other way. I think everyone has that mentality that if we get it in there, we feel pretty confident that if they have to come up through five of our guys and Andy, we're pretty confident that that's going to be a hard thing to do.
"But yeah, would you love to play your best defense by playing in the offensive zone the entire game? For sure, yeah, no question. But dealing with what we were dealing with and being a resilient team, I thought we played well tonight."
Game 2 may end up being the one that got away from Washington, but the focus has to be squarely on Game 3 now.
"We gave up the lead, so if you go back and look at it, you'll say, 'We could have done this, or we could have done that,'" says Laviolette. "So, it's over with. We move on. We've got to get ready for the next game. Nobody likes giving up a late lead. We did, and they won it in overtime. Game 2 is over and we've got to move on to Game 3."
Video: Peter Laviolette | May 18