BOSTON – The Bruins had jumped back into their winning ways in the past few games, but still hadn’t truly felt like they were back to their style of winning hockey games. Well, they should feel like they’re fully back in the saddle now.
The Black and Gold were partially aided by a Washington Capitals team that clearly seemed gassed after playing an emotional game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, but the Bruins deserve credit for thoroughly dominating the Caps by a 3-0 final score at TD Garden.
The B’s are 3-1-1 in the five games since coming out of the Olympic break. They really went back to defensive basics against the Caps.
The Bruins finally got on the board in the second period – after a dominant opening 20 minutes -- with a contribution from fourth-line center Gregory Campbell, who tipped a Patrice Bergeron shot past Braden Holtby. It was Campbell’s fourth goal in the past four games in his best stretch of this season after returning from a broken leg suffered in last year’s playoffs.
Loui Eriksson doubled that advantage by lifting a shot in tight over Holtby after a nifty play by Carl Soderberg picking up a loose puck and wheeling behind the net before dishing to his fellow Swede in front. The two-goal advantage gave the Bruins some room to operate with, but the Boston defense just completely suffocated Washington, who had less than a handful of semi-decent scoring chances.
Brad Marchand added the empty netter for his team-best 21st goal of the season.
GOLD STAR: It’s appropriate that on a night when the Bruins defense dominated the proceedings that Patrice Bergeron had one of his best games. The B’s franchise center led all players with eight shots on net, had 10 shot attempts and three takeaways in 15:09 of dominant, high-energy hockey. Bergeron also set up the first goal when he snapped off a one-timer from the left circle that Gregory Campbell tipped on the way to the net. It’s probably appropriate that Bergeron put out that kind of performance on a night when former linemate Mark Recchi was honored as the ceremonial figure dropping the puck, and represent the Bruins in the 2010’s in the celebration of the franchise’s 90th birthday.
BLACK EYE: One shot on net and a minus-1 in 16:43 of ice time for Alex Ovechkin, who had one near goal partially poked away by Tuukka Rask as he missed wide right with a shot on an open net. It was a far cry from the energetic, almost angry performance from the Russian sniper against the Bruins just a few days ago, when he snapped off a pair of power-play goals against the Black and Gold. Tonight he wasn’t a consistent offensive threat, and wasn’t much of a physical presence in one of those ghost games that No. 8 will put out a few times a year despite his massive paycheck.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins dominated play in the first 20 minutes, but didn’t score. Then the B’s really turned it up a notch in the middle period against a Capitals team that had played a spirited game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night and suffocated Washington. They outshot the Capitals 17-4, while Washington went more than 12 minutes without a single shot on net, and scored a pair of goals in what was basically an insurmountable advantage for the Bruins. The empty-netter to ice the game was nice, but the Capitals were never in this one.
HONORABLE MENTION: On a night when he might have been feeling some pressure to stay in the lineup, Matt Bartkowski was excellent for the Bruins. He blocked a pair of shots and moved the puck with confidence, speed and care throughout his 21:30 of ice time, and also assisted on the first goal with a nice play in the offensive zone on a delayed penalty call. Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk have done a nice job of pairing together for that middle D-pairing over the past few months, and have certainly shaken off the rustiness from the first few games.
BY THE NUMBERS 0 – the number of penalties assessed in the game. There was one delayed penalty call on Gregory Campbell’s goal in the second period, but that was wiped away once the Bruins scored. A great example of the Bruins playing disciplined hockey against a Washington team with a killer power play.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We played well, we played tight and just respected our system. When we do that, good things happen.” –Patrice Bergeron pretty simply laying out the B’s method of success.