Caps' penalty kill improves in 4-1 preseason win over Bruins

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 12:14 AM

BOSTON - Improving the penalty kill has been a point of emphasis for the Washington Capitals throughout their training camp practices and preseason games. But regardless of how well the unit performed in early exhibition contests, Coach Bruce Boudreau hesitated to offer praise, stressing that they weren't facing opponents' top power-play groups.

Wednesday night at TD Garden, the Capitals' penalty killers faced a Boston Bruins lineup of NHL regulars and preserved a one-goal lead in the second period despite being short-handed for nearly eight consecutive minutes. The stretch deflated the Bruins as much as it propelled the Capitals to an eventual 4-1 win that keeps Washington undefeated through four preseason games.

"I think we used 10 different penalty killers and they all knew what was going on," Boudreau said. "They did a great job, which was a great testament to [assistant coaches] Dean [Evason] and [Bob Woods] and what they're teaching."

After falling to the Capitals for the second time in as many nights, the Bruins departed for a preseason game in Belfast ahead of their regular season opener against the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague. Boudreau praised his team's grit by remarking of the Bruins, "You could almost feel them say: 'Okay, let's go to Belfast.' "

Although the Capitals established a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom, who received a crisp feed in the slot from Jason Chimera, the game didn't present many offensive opportunities for either team early on.

Beginning just past the three-minute mark of the second period, the Bruins would have plenty of opportunities. First, Washington's Steve Pinizzotto was called for high-sticking, a double-minor penalty. Seventeen seconds after Washington killed off those four minutes, Backstrom went to the box on a hooking call. Then, 20 seconds after the conclusion of Backstrom's penalty, Marcus Johansson went off for slashing.

Rather than allow fatigue to set in though, Washington's penalty killers continued to rotate with short shifts and provide strong support for goaltender Dany Sabourin, who stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first 32 minutes of the contest. They blocked shots, made diving plays to clear the puck and prompted the crowd of 14,916 to serenade the Bruins with boos.

"The guys really bought in," said Matt Hendricks, who played nearly four minutes short-handed. "That's one of the biggest attributes I think to a good penalty-killing unit is everyone buying in and kind of being excited to prove to your teammates that you're willing to put your body on the line and sacrifice, and all the players did that."

Not long after the Capitals reestablished a normal flow at even strength, Backstrom deflected a shot from the point by Jeff Schultz for his second goal of the game to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead. Washington added goals by Andrew Gordon and Matt Bradley in the third before Boston got on the board with a power-play goal by Mark Recchi. The Bruins, though, were just 1 for 5 on the power play.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of the victory and success on the penalty kill was that it all came against a realistic regular season Bruins lineup while the Capitals were without several of their regular stars, including Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble.

"I think they had a full team," Backstrom said. "We did a great job, it was a team effort and the goalies played good."

Capitals note: Washington has loaned center Michael Nylander to the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans, a minor league affiliate of the Florida Panthers. The Capitals can recall Nylander, 38, at any time if they so wish and are still responsible for his $3 million salary this season while the Panthers will pay the Capitals a nominal fee for his services.

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