With the Washington Capitals
about to embark on a make-or-break, six-game road trip, coming out of Sunday’s home matinee against the Boston Bruins
with two points was almost mandatory.
and Viktor Kozlov
made sure that happened, scoring shootout goals, and Cristobal Huet
’s stellar goaltending led the Capitals to a 2-1 win in their final game this month at Verizon Center.
Huet stopped 39 of the 40 shots he faced during regulation and overtime before denying Chuck Kobasew
in the tiebreaker. Phil Kessel
missed the net on the Bruins’ second attempt, and Kozlov followed in the third round by putting the puck past Alex Auld
, clinching the victory. Semin had scored in the first round for what held up as the winner.
“I didn’t start the year very good in shootouts, but the last two or three have been working for me,” Huet said. “It’s good that we have some good players who can put the puck in the net.”
The Capitals remained in a tie for 10th in the Eastern Conference with Florida, one point behind Buffalo for ninth and two in back of Philadelphia, which still holds the eighth and final playoff spot but lost its fourth straight Sunday in Pittsburgh. Washington now faces Nashville, Chicago and all four of its Southeast Division rivals on the road before beginning a season-ending, three-game homestand on April 1.
“We’ll stay with the attitude of one game at a time,” center Sergei Fedorov said. “I’m sure our focus is on the next game. Obviously, it would be nice to start the road trip with a win. Nashville will be a quick start and we have to be ready for that. Chicago will be the same. We have to be ready.”
Both goalies were solid through 65 minutes, with power-play goals by Fedorov of the Capitals and Kobasew of the Bruins the only markers on the board. Boston outshot Washington 16-13 in the second period and 17-9 in the third, but Huet held strong.
“He came up huge on a few saves,” Fedorov said. “He was outstanding.”
Fedorov opened the scoring late in the first period with his 10th of the season. The Capitals had a 5-on-3 advantage when Fedorov took a Nicklas Backstrom pass at the top of the right circle and, with the Bruins shading toward Alexander Ovechkin at the top of the left circle, took a slap shot that beat Auld with 1:18 remaining. It was Fedorov’s first goal in nine games after coming over in a trade with Columbus.
Kobasew answered midway through the second with Boston skating up a man. His 22nd of the season came at the 10:13 mark off a cross-ice pass from Milan Lucic, with Kobasew letting go a shot from the right side that eluded Huet.
“I thought we played well enough to deserve a win, but that’s the way it goes now,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Every game is so tight. When you’re on the winning side of shootouts, it’s great. The other side, it’s tough to take, especially when points are so important, but that’s the way it goes.”
It was a fairly successful weekend for the Bruins, who tied Saturday’s game against the Flyers in the final minute of regulation and then won it in overtime. They picked up three of a possible four points and tied the New York Rangers for sixth place in the East.
“It’s what you expect, really, to have these tight games,” Auld said. “Every year, since they implemented the extra point in the shootout, you see so many three-point games down the stretch. Every point’s so valuable, teams don’t want to give up too many turnovers and giveaways.”
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to agree with that assessment in noting the way his players skated.
“It looked like we were afraid to make a mistake instead of, ‘Let’s go get them,’ and play the way we can,” Boudreau said. “That’s the difference between teams that aren’t in it, they play loose. A lot of times they’re beating the other teams because they’re playing loose. We were tight a little bit out there because of the importance of the game.”
Ovechkin was held scoreless for the first time in nine games and remains one point shy of 100 for the season. He needs three goals in Washington’s final nine games to become the first player to net 60 in a season since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr each did so during the 1995-96 campaign.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.