The Bruins also found success in getting under the skin of Washington players. Efforts to start fracases after whistles picked up as the game progressed. One reaction, by the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom as time expired, may prove costly moving forward.
Backstrom received a match penalty for cross checking Rich Peverley in the face after the Bruins forward tripped Alex Ovechkin. Match penalties come with an automatic suspension, pending review by the NHL’s department of player safety headed by Brendan Shanahan.
“They gave him a match but I think the league will review it and rescind it. If you seen it, it was not that bad,” said Coach Dale Hunter, who was asked how he thought the Capitals dealt with the various attempts to instigate by Boston. “We can handle it. They want to have the scrums more and the physical play after the whistles and stuff to try to take our skill guys off their game, but the guys battled back.”
A few players said Boston’s strategy of trying to fluster them might have been successful. Backstrom, who was not asked specifically about the penalty after the game, said he believes the Capitals need to “handle it better.”
Said Troy Brouwer: “It might’ve [worked]. I know it worked for them last year in the finals. We have a lot of guys that are going to not get involved with that because, for us, that’s unnecessary. We don’t need to be playing after the whistle. Our focus is in between the whistles.”
Before the flare-ups at the end of regulation, it appeared as though this contest — which saw Washington get goals from Alexander Semin, Ovechkin and Brooks Laich — would be destined for overtime just like the others.
As time ticked down in the third period with the score tied at 3, Chara teed up a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. It might have been harmless, but the puck deflected off the stick of defenseman Roman Hamrlik and past rookie netminder Braden Holtby (25 saves) for the deciding tally.
“The last goal — it’s just a tough break,” Holtby said. “Hammer tried to — he was turning, and obviously wouldn’t want to deflect it. But it came pretty quick off the stick and a perfect deflection. Those are goals that happen.”
This contest was the first of the series in which Holtby and Tim Thomas (29 saves) found themselves facing frequent up-and-down action and quality scoring chances. Both teams seemed poised for a breakout at some point, and more than six minutes of four-on-four play created plenty of open ice for them to work with.