After defeating the Bruins at home over a week ago, the Capitals were unable to repeat the outcome Sunday, falling 4-1 to the Bruins at Verizon Center. The loss itself seemed to take a backseat to the injury Capitals center Brooks Laich suffered in the second period.
Despite both teams having played the day before, the Bruins carried the play early on, pinning the Capitals in their zone and limiting the home team to just one shot attempted through the first ten minutes. At 10:45 into the second, they got on the board first when Milan Lucic got behind Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman on a rush and beat Tomas Vokoun high.
Play continued that way for several minutes, leading to a 9-2 Boston shot advantage soon after the goal. The Capitals seemed to wake up, putting seven of the next eight shots in the game on net. Tim Thomas stopped every one of them, including quality chances by Alex Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward.
“[The Bruins] came out pretty hard on us and forechecked us well and we threw it around the boards a lot,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said of the early portion of the game. “Their D were pinching and they hemmed us in for a while, but we figured it out and started chipping the puck into the neutral zone under pressure and got into foot races with them.”
But the Bruins proved more advantageous. With just 1:22 left in the period Patrice Bergeron won a puck battle down low and found an open Brad Marchand to Vokoun’s right to put the Bruins ahead 2-0.
“It’s never fun to [give up] a goal late in the period,” Capitals center Marcus Johansson said. “We might have scored one, but they ended up getting that one, it’s tough to fight back. We tried but the puck just didn’t want to go in.”
The most noteworthy event of the second was Laich, who left the game with an apparent leg injury. Laich went into the boards with Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and appeared to take on a knee-on-knee hit. He would not return.
“We’re going to see tomorrow,” Hunter said. “He’s day-to-day.”
For a team already missing its best center in Nicklas Backstrom, losing Laich for any length of team could represent a major blow to the Capitals’ playoff chances.
The Capitals managed a modicum of offense to start the third, including a Matthieu Perreault shot that hit the post, but Thomas stopped everything else. Then Tyler Seguin made it 3-0 at 6:38 of the third. Wideman once again let Seguin get behind him and Brad Marchand passed it to him for a tip-in against which Vokoun stood no chance.
Johansson broke the shutout when he banked a centering pass off Seidenberg, but ultimately the Bruins improved to 22-0-0 when leading after two and the offense-starved Capitals predictably were unable to climb back into the game. Rich Peverly added an empty-net goal to close the game out.
On Washington’s side, the next two games against Winnipeg and Florida are now that much more important. They can ill-afford to squander any points on the table after the loss which kept them in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
Whether or not they’ll have to do it without Laich remains unclear.
“If we were to lose him, he’s a big part of our game and plays a ton of minutes against the top lines so it would be a big loss,” Wideman said.