Angry Bears – The Boston Bruins were apparently tired of getting beaten in their own barn by the Washington Capitals. From March 10 through April 25, 2012, the Capitals won as many games (five) at the TD Garden as the Bruins did. Factor in a 4-3 Caps comeback win in the District on March 5 of this season in a game in which the B’s held a 3-0 second period lead, and it’s no wonder the proud Bruins were a little salty heading into Saturday’s matinee match against the Caps in Boston.
In the first period of Saturday’s game, the Bruins cashed in on a pair of Washington turnovers that led to glorious one-timer chances from the middle of the ice in front of the Caps’ net. David Krejci and Nathan Horton, respectively, made sure those one-timer chances found their way into the back of the Washington net and the B’s had all the offense they’d need in a 4-1 win over Washington.
“We had a couple chances, but really the focus has got to be at our own end,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “We had opportunities in the first period to make better plays and we didn’t. We gave them two chances that you can’t fault the goalie on.”
Those two Boston goals came in a span of just 3:03.
“They do a good job,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “They all crash the net and they clear the net really well. We didn’t clear it quite good enough, in my opinion. That’s what happens. They put them in when they get the opportunities and we need to make sure we’re doing that every single night. We’re taking a night off here and there; we’re not as gritty in front of the net offensively and defensively, and that was happening tonight.”
The Caps tried to claw their way back, and they halved the deficit early in the second when a Marcus Johansson centering feed banked off a skate and caromed past Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin for Washington’s lone goal of the game.
Vying for the tying tally, the Caps held an 8-2 advantage in shot attempts in the first 6:01 of 2nd, but that’s when Washington’s Matt Hendricks and Boston’s Adam McQuaid were sent off for matching roughing minors. With the two teams playing 4-on-4 hockey as those penalties expired, the B’s gained the zone on a rush and started a pretty passing sequence that culminated in another prime scoring chance for Boston from the center of the ice.
Boston blueliner Andrew Ference fired home his first goal of the season – and his first since March 29, 2012 when he scored against the Capitals in Boston – to give the B’s a 3-1 lead.
Unlike the March 5 game when Boston hairballed a 3-0 lead against the Caps in D.C., there was never a firm feeling that the Caps would be able to muster a comeback win in this one. Boston adroitly kept the Caps from the middle of the ice for most of the afternoon, and the Bruins were consistently physical before and after the whistles.
When it was all said and done, the Bruins had beaten the Capitals thoroughly in every aspect of the game.
“We played them last year in the playoffs,” says Johansson of the Bruins. “We know they’re a tough team; that’s just the way they play the game. I think we did a good job of that. We stood up for ourselves. We’ve got to find a way to score more goals, I think.”
Washington failed to convert the occasional scoring chances it did create, and ended up with its fourth loss in its last five games.
“We made mistakes in the first period,” says Caps captain Alex Ovechkin, “turnovers in our zone and they scored. We didn’t.”
Saturday Afternoon Scraps – Caps center Mike Ribeiro dropped the gloves with Boston’s Brad Marchand late in the second period. The fighting major was Ribeiro’s first in the NHL and it came in his 764th career game. For Marchand, Saturday’s scrap was the fourth fight of his NHL career.
According to hockeyfights.com, Ribeiro’s last fight before Saturday came on Dec. 5, 1998 when he fought Brad Richards in a QMJHL game. It was the third of Ribeiro’s three fights in his QMJHL career, all of which came in that 1998-99 season.
Seconds after Marchand and Ribeiro fought, the more battle seasoned Matt Hendricks squared off with Boston’s Nathan Horton. When the third period started, each team had two players cooling their heels in the penalty box for fighting.
Later in the third, the Bruins decided that Hendricks needed to go again. Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid cornered the Caps winger in the neutral zone, and Hendricks dropped the gloves and went with McQuaid. Both received fighting majors while Thornton incurred a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Familiar Foes – Since joining the Caps just prior to training camp before the 2010-11 season, Hendricks has had 32 fights including the preseason. Six of those bouts have been against Boston, and three of them have been against McQuaid.
Hendricks and McQuaid have now fought once in each of the last three seasons.
Hendricks had two fights in a game for the second time this season, accounting for two-thirds of his half-dozen scraps in 2012-13. He fought Winnipeg’s Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn on Jan. 22.
Back In the Saddle – Caps defenseman Jack Hillen made his way back into the lineup on Saturday for the first time since opening night in Tampa Bay on Jan. 19. Hillen suffered an upper body injury while absorbing a Vincent Lecavalier check into the boards in that game and he spent the last two months rehabbing that injury.
“It felt great,” says Hillen. “I was nervous because I hadn’t played in basically a year, in any games. So I was pretty nervous. But once I got that first shift under me and got acclimated to the game speed a little bit, I felt a lot better.”
It’s never easy readjusting to the speed of the NHL after playing just a few minutes at that level over the previous 11 months. It’s also never easy to face the hard-forechecking Bruins in their own barn. Hillen was forced to deal with both of those unenviable situations on Saturday.
“They’re a good team,” says Hillen. “Their crowd was into it. It’s a good place to play. They threw me right back into the fire and it was good. I just got right back in there.
“I’ve got to give credit to the coaches and Mark Nemish, our strength [and conditioning] coach for getting me in shape. I felt like my legs were great; I didn’t feel like I was out of shape at all. It was just timing and not having played in almost a year. But as far as conditioning and everything, I felt really good.”
Hillen played just 3:29 in the Caps’ season opener against the Lightning. He logged 14:48 on Saturday in Boston, registering a minus-1, a shot on goal and a blocked shot.
“Good, good, really good,” says Oates of Hillen’s return after a two-month absence. “Obviously his skating ability is one of his best assets and that’s part of what we want from him. I told [Caps assistant coach] Calle [Johansson] the second half of the game to play him more.”
You’re Welcome – The game’s official scoresheet shows Bruins forward Milan Lucic with a career high three-assist game. Lucic had a great afternoon on the ice and was a constant factor in the action, but he also benefited from a significant gift on Boston’s second goal to acheive that three-assist game.
Lucic was behind the net and he forced a turnover, but it was quite clearly Washington’s Ribeiro who fired the puck out front and onto the tape of the waiting Krejci for the one-timer and the goal. That didn’t stop the generous hometown scorers from issuing not one, but two phantom assists on the play, to Lucic and Horton.
Divisional Dominance – Boston is now 8-0-1 against Southeast Division opponents this season. The Caps are responsible for the lone blemish on that mark, the aforementioned 4-3 overtime win over the B’s on March 5.
By The Numbers – Steve Oleksy’s 24:01 in ice time was tops on the Capitals … Jason Chimera led the Caps with six shots on net … Fehr led the Caps with five hits … Nine Caps took at least one face-off in the game, but only Joey Crabb (1-for-1) won more than he lost on the afternoon … B’s left winger Jay Pandolfo was the only Bruin not to record a shot on goal in Saturday’s game … Thornton led the Bruins with seven hits … Patrice Bergeron won 17 of the 2 face-offs he took on the day (68%).