Boston, MA – The Washington Capitals made the Boston Bruins earn their 4-3 win the old-fashioned way in front of 17,850 at TD Garden on Thursday night. The Capitals knocked Anton Blidh and Brad Marchand from the game in the first and second periods, respectively. Still, defenseman Charlie McAvoy knocked the Caps down a notch in the Eastern Conference standings with his game-winning goal with forty-five seconds left in the game.
Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Capitals ahead 1-0 at 4:07 of the first period when he unleashed an absolute snipe over the shoulder of Linus Ullmark (14 saves) from the bottom of the left circle. Alex Ovechkin and Trevor van Riemsdyk assisted on Kuznetsov’s 13th of the year.
Less than a minute later, David Pastrnak answered for the Bruins when he beat Vitek Vanecek (29 saves) with a shot from the bottom of the right circle. Pastrnak snuck behind two Capitals defenders after leaving a drop pass for Taylor Hall. Hall feathered a pass through the two defensemen to Pastrnak for his 17th goal.
After trading the two goals, the teams traded big, punishing hits in the Capitals zone. First, Capitals forward Tom Wilson laid out Bruins forward Blidh at the top of the right circle after Blidh slid a pass to Erik Haula.
Then McAvoy leveled van Riemsdyk at the left post of the Capitals net. Both hits were clean, and neither led to a penalty or fisticuffs.
“My momentum led me to that spot. I wasn’t thinking of crushing anybody,” McAvoy said of the hit. “It sort of just presented itself.”
A Garnet Hathaway Interference penalty at 6:48 gave the Bruins a power-play. It was the play that ultimately ended Marchand’s night. Boston took advantage of the situation when Matt Grzelcyk fired off a stretch pass right up the middle of the ice to Pastrnak for a breakaway bid. Vanecek made the initial leg save on Pastrnak, but the puck crossed the goal-line after digging by Pastrnak. Pastrnak’s goal was his 18th of the season and 10th since January 1. That is the most in the NHL over that span.
Lars Eller evened up the score for the Capitals when he sniped a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Ullmark at 16:12. It was a similar shot as Kuznetsov’s goal back in the first period. Ullmark got a glove on the puck, but the motion of his arm might have helped the puck into the Bruins net.
Jake DeBrusk played the left wing on the first line in place of Marchand. DeBrusk set up the Bruins go-ahead goal at 9:41 of the period when he fired a pass across the crease towards a hard-charging Bergeron. Kuznetsov tried to play the puck but inadvertently knocked it between Vanecek’s legs. The play continued for almost a minute until the goal judge signaled that Boston scored. After a brief review, Bergeron had his 13th goal, but the goal was changed to DeBrusk’s sixth after the game.
“He was flying tonight; he was all over the ice,” said McAvoy of DeBrusk. “When he has his legs, he’s a very dangerous player. He’s the fastest guy on the ice pretty much any given night. We’re always cheering for him. When he pulls the rope, we’re a much better team.”
The Bruins lead would be short-lived again as Nicklas Backstrom fired a Wilson pass past Ullmark to tie the game at 10:17. Backstrom’s first goal of the season was a wrist shot from in front of Ullmark.
McAvoy’s sixth goal of the season sealed the deal for Boston at 19:15 of the third period. Boston picked up two points on Washington in the wild card chase with the win.
“I was pleased, start to finish,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “We dug in, played hard. I thought we were the better team.”
The Bruins face the Winning Jets on Saturday at 3:00 pm at TD Garden.