The Washington Capitals started off March on the right foot, rolling over the Boston Bruins in their Saturday matinee at TD Garden. Alex Ovechkin netted two power-play goals, bringing his total to a league-leading 43 goals this season. The two goals propelled Ovechkin to a landmark 800th career point, making him only the 148th NHL player to reach that milestone.
A recent Hall of Fame inductee himself, Oates laughed off any excitement over his captain’s 800th point.
“Oh, that’s not a milestone,” he joked with reporters when told postgame what Ovechkin had reached with his two goals.
The win marks the fourth straight for the Caps, who showed a commitment to their system that Coach Adam Oates has been preaching all season. Despite the streak, Oates reiterated his desire for improvement.
“You want wins, you want to play right, you want to do good things, because you want to build. It is always a building block every night,” he said.
The Caps gained momentum early when they were forced to kill off two simultaneous penalties as Jay Beagle was whistled for holding during Tom Wilson’s delayed high sticking call. Brilliant penalty killing from numerous Caps sent the Bruins power play packing with only one shot on goal, building confidence for Washington in a first period played mostly in their own end.
Oates praised his penalty killers postgame.
“That was huge. Two minutes, from a face-off, great job. They actually did not get that many looks during it, which was great,” he said. “It goes to show how important special teams is.”
Ovechkin opened the scoring late into the first period, scoring on Bruins goalie Tukka Rask from the top on the left circle on a wicked slap shot from John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom.
Less than three minutes into the second period, Ovechkin got the second goal of the game when Marcus Johansson dished a perfectly timed pass to the streaking Ovechkin, who put the puck over Rask’s catching glove to give the away team a two-goal cushion.
The Caps kept rolling when Joel Ward scored his 18th goal on a beautiful unassisted tally, slicing between the falling Boston defense. When Rask guessed wrong, going down to the butterfly, Ward elevated the puck into an empty net, stretching Washington’s lead to three.
“I just kind of went in, I had a little bit of a break. I knew the goalie was kind of anticipating that I was going to shoot, just the angle he was at,” Ward said. “I was able to pull it to my backhand and slip it home.”
In a familiar sequence of events, Boston scored their first goal of the game less than a minute later when the Caps got into penalty trouble courtesy of a tripping call on Jason Chimera. Patrice Bergeron got a pass from Dougie Hamilton and put away a one-timer through traffic to cut the deficit to two, energizing the quiet TD Garden crowd.
The comeback continued when the revived Bruins struck again, this time on a tip-in from Shawn Thorton from the goalmouth, leaving Caps goalie Braden Holtby no chance to save the deflection goal.
It looked like the Caps would get to finish out the second period on the power play when Brad Marchand was whistled for tripping, but Bruins captain Zdeno Chara thought otherwise, complaining to the referee when his stick was broken and drawing a slashing call for Backstorm. The questionable call forced four-on-four play for just under two minutes but neither team was able to convert.
Holtby made one of the best saves of the game early in the third when the dangerous, physical line of Thorton, Daniel Paille, and Gregory Campbell was knocking on the doorstep, provoking the amazing save from the Washington netminder on Thorton’s deflection try.
Holtby welcomed the challenged of the hard matchup.
“I know what the Bruins are capable of on any given night. They are one of the best teams in the league. I think it is a credit to us,” he said.
The Caps had another chance on the man advantage next, when Marchand received two minutes for following through on a shot into the face of Dmitry Orlov, earning a high sticking call. Ovechkin fed a pass to Troy Brouwer, who walked in alone on Rask. The Boston goalie stood tall as he snatched the puck glove side, shocking Brouwer and halting the Caps lead at one.
The power play expired fruitlessly, but Washington kept pushing. When the Bruins got tangled up in the neutral zone, Eric Fehr found himself all alone in front of Rask. He would not make the same mistake as Brouwer, scoring five-hole on Rask with a quick release shot to notch his tenth of the season.
The goal made Fehr the eighth player for Washington with ten goals or more, signifying the scoring depth they have been looking for all season.
The Caps picked up two more important points against the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins with their win today. The game was a good test for a Washington team on the cusp of playoff contention with a difficult March schedule.
Regardless of the win, Oates does not want his team to get too comfortable.
“Four in a row is good. We need them. But it does not last too long. We’ve got to play tomorrow at 12.”