“They got a lucky goal,” Hunter said. “It deflected off one of our guys.”
That goal is the difference right now. Luck, as they say, is the residue of design and the Bruins clearly had more “net-front presence,” as Julien called it, on Monday than they had in the first two games. The Caps had to be encouraged by the fact that Alexander Ovechkin scored a goal early in the second period on a pretty play in which he controlled a rolling puck and beat Tim Thomas with a quick shot. Backstrom, clearly back to his pre-concussion self, made the game’s most artistic play, caroming a long pass off the boards to a streaking Laich to set up the goal that tied the game at 3 with six minutes left.
Still, Monday night’s game was played more in the style the Bruins prefer than one the Caps are comfortable with. There were several post-whistle “rugby scrums,” as Hunter called them, that led to penalties, most notably the one at the end of the game that put Backstrom’s immediate future in doubt.
“When you see the same guys every night it gets more intense,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “It’s not like the regular season where you don’t see them for a while and you forget what’s happened the last time you played them. When you see what’s happening around the league, what happened in this game is easy to understand. Things get more tense more quickly. ”
There will be plenty of tension in Verizon Center on Thursday night. The Caps need to stay away from silly penalties like the one Backstrom took at game’s end. It doesn’t matter if Peverly got his stick between Ovechkin’s legs — the game had been decided. Skate away in order to skate another day.
Shanahan has been unpredictable with his discipline since the start of the playoffs. He somehow let Nashville’s Shea Weber off with only a fine after a vicious hit on Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg. The cries of dismay seem to have echoed in New York. Perhaps that did not bode well for Backstrom.
What the first three games of this series have clearly shown is that the Caps can play with the Bruins. Washington General Manager George McPhee pointed out before the playoffs began how thin the margin in the NHL is between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed. One No. 1 seed, Vancouver, is on the verge of being swept.
The No. 2 seed in the East — the defending Cup champions — lead 2-1. They know, as do their opponents, that this series is probably a long way from being over.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost