Washington Capitals defeat Boston Bruins 4-1 to win record 11th straight

Washington's Brooks Laich, right, savors his third-period goal, his fourth in six games, which gave the Capitals the lead. Boston dropped its eighth straight game.
Washington's Brooks Laich, right, savors his third-period goal, his fourth in six games, which gave the Capitals the lead. Boston dropped its eighth straight game. (Adam Hunger/reuters)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

BOSTON -- The Washington Capitals made history Tuesday night, and they had José Theodore to thank for it.

The veteran goaltender kept his teammates in the game through the first 40 minutes, stopping 28 of the first 29 shots he faced. Then, as if on cue, the league's best offense showed up at TD Garden, and Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon scored 2 minutes 47 seconds apart early in the third period to beat the Boston Bruins, 4-1, and set a new franchise record for consecutive victories with their 11th.

"We didn't play really well, but we found a way to win, because they believed we could win," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you're on a winning streak, you find ways, good things happen. When you're losing, you hit crossbars and the other goalie makes incredible saves like Theo did tonight."

Theodore, meantime, set a personal record with his eighth straight win. He finished with 41 saves, including two highlight stops on Blake Wheeler. On the first, Theodore denied the big Bruins winger with a stacked pad stop. On the second, the Capitals goalie dived back and swept the puck off the goal line.

"Not bad," Boudreau said of Theodore. "He was in a complete zone today and I hope he stays there."

Theodore added: "It's fun to be part of franchise history. Getting that 11th win, and beating the old record, it's great. . . . It started in Florida when we were down 4-1 and came back. That was a big turning point for the team and myself. It was good for my confidence. From there, I've played every game and I've felt good."

Achieving the milestone, though, was anything but a sure thing after the first two periods. For the third straight game, the penalty-prone Capitals struggled early, and as a result, they found themselves deadlocked at one with a Boston team that was desperate for a win after dropping their previous seven contests.

"We haven't played as well as we wanted," said defenseman Tom Poti, who set up two goals. "But we seem to have picked up at the right moment, and tonight was no different. We came out to play in the third and that ultimately got us the win."

The Capitals quickly seized control in the third period on Laich's fourth goal in six games. The pivotal play began with Alexander Semin picking off an errant reverse pass by Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick. Having been whistled for three minor penalties in the first two periods, Semin made up for his earlier sins by passing the puck to Laich, who beat an unsuspecting Tim Thomas (22 saves) between the pads.

Less than three minutes later, Gordon redirected a pass from Poti past Thomas to make it 3-1. Poti finished with a team-best plus/minus rating of plus 4.

"He made two great plays for goals today," Boudreau said of Poti's third multi-point performance this season. "When you don't have Mike Green in the lineup, those things are necessary. He looked very confident with the puck all night long."

The Capitals' third-period outburst was a quite a turnaround from their weak, penalty-filled effort in the early going. In fact, the first period was perhaps their worst period during the winning streak. They were out-skated by the Bruins, and took four minor penalties, including two by Semin. Washington was also outshot, 13-5, in the first period.

Semin's second penalty -- a high stick in the offensive zone less than seven minutes into the contest -- put the Capitals down two men for 41 seconds. The offensively challenged Bruins needed only eight seconds to convert. David Krejci fired a cross crease pass from Marc Savard off Theodore, who single-handedly kept Washington in contention.

Theodore's early dominance paid off 2:04 into the second period. Poti threaded a cross ice pass to a cutting Mike Knuble, who appeared to redirect the puck into the goal with his leg, skate and stick to tie the score at 1. Knuble has nine goals and three assists during the streak.

"It was an ugly goal [but] it tied up the game," Knuble said. "There's not a lot of doubt in our room. There's a ton of confidence in our room at all times, and there should be."

As pleased as many of the Capitals were about history, Poti quickly put things into perspective for a team that is arguably the franchise's best.

"It's nice to have streaks and stuff," he said. "But we have bigger goals for this team."

Capitals Notes: Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-net goal to provide the final margin. . . . Karl Alzner was recalled from Hershey on Tuesday but did not suit up. "We're on a trip, we've only got six defensemen, and you never know if someone gets sick during the day, we don't want to be caught flat-footed," Boudreau said of the move. . . . Green, who missed the second game of a three-game suspension, participated in the morning skate and appeared to be recovered from the bruised knee he suffered against Florida. . . . Quintin Laing was a healthy scratch for the 13th time in the past 14 games. . . . Goaltender Semyon Varlamov, sidelined since Dec. 7 with groin muscle and knee injuries, rejoined the minor league Hershey Bears on Tuesday and participated in practice. "He looked good," Bears Coach Mark French told reporters. Varlamov is not scheduled to go to Norfolk for Wednesday's game but could start for the Bears on Saturday.

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