BOSTON – The sluggish return from the Olympic break continues for the Boston Bruins, who came up just short against a Washington Capitals team that needs points in order to force their way into the playoff picture.
The Capitals never trailed in the game, and iced it with an Eric Fehr breakaway goal in the third period after Torey Krug fell down as the last line of defense for the Bruins in a 4-2 defeat at TD Garden.
The leaky Boston defense has now allowed nine goals in the first two games back from the Olympic break, and looked sloppy and rusty after the 2 ½ week recess in the regular season.
The Bruins started out with a resounding thud getting outshot by a 13-7 margin in the first period, and falling behind by a three goal deficit before they started waking up in the second period. Alex Ovechkin scored his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season on the power play for his 800th career point, and Joel Ward shoveled a backhanded shot past Tuukka Rask after a tough Johnny Boychuk turnover.
Patrice Bergeron snapped home his 17th goal of the season on the power play to give the Bruins some life in the second period, and Boston closed to within one score on a nice play by the Merlot Line. Shawn Thornton pulled the puck back and fed a charging Gregory Campbell, who beat Mike Green to the spot before redirecting the puck past Braden Holtby.
But that’s as close as the Bruins would get in a game where Washington clearly meant business out of the starting gate.
GOLD STAR: Alex Ovechkin scored the first two of Washington’s goals on the power play to get them a lead, and led all players with nine shots on net while pointing a laser focus at the Boston net. When Ovechkin decides to play with that level of energy and determination, he is extremely difficult to stop. The second goal was a blur of a one-time shot that Tuukka Rask had absolutely no chance of stopping, and Ovie set the tone for a group of Capitals players that followed afterward. The second goal was the 800th point of his NHL career as the career numbers start to pile up. Now why couldn’t he do that in the Olympics for his native Russia?
BLACK EYE: Not a great game for Johnny Boychuk, who had a brutal turnover to Joel Ward off a center ice face-off that turned into the game-winning goal for the Capitals and was the “other defenseman” on Eric Fehr’s breakaway opened up when Torey Krug fell down as the last line of defense. He was too deep while cheating in the offensive zone on a goal that essentially iced the game for Washington. Boychuk was the only Bruins player that finished a minus-2 for the game, and has struggled a bit in each of the first two games back from the Olympic break. Boychuk also generated seven shot attempts, but only got two of them through defenders to the Washington net in an afternoon to forget for No. 55.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins really lost the game in the first couple of periods when they were outshot 13-7 to start the game, gave up the first three goals of the game and allowed the Capitals to get six power play chances against the Black and Gold. The backbreaker was the sloppy pass from Boychuk off the center ice face-off win, which was intercepted by Joel Ward. Ward practically had a red carpet invitation to bomb down the slot between Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski before shoveling a backhander over Tuukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron scored afterward to give the Bruins some life, but it was a massive uphill battle following the series of mistakes.
HONORABLE MENTION: Shawn Thornton was one of the few Bruins players that didn’t look sluggish or rusty as he – and the rest of the Merlot Line – went about trying to spark the Boston hockey club. Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille had the best of the offensive chances against the Capitals, and No. 22 set up the B’s second goal while patiently pulling the puck back, and then throwing a centering pass at Gregory Campbell and Mike Green. Thornton was credited with the goal as it appeared to go off Green before skipping past Holtby, but that’s as close as the Bruins would get in the game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – the number of goals allowed by the Bruins in their first two games coming out of the Olympic break.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it’s more our team overall — the five guys on the ice, and making sure we have some layers. We’ve talked about that for a long time. If there’s a small mistake, there are layers, but there haven’t been too many layers as of late.” –Claude Julien, on the team’s defensive woes over the last two games.