By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 22, 2010; 1:01 AM
BOSTON - For the majority of the first period Thursday night, the Washington Capitals created numerous scoring opportunities, tilted the ice toward the Boston Bruins' zone and peppered Tim Thomas with 13 shots, forcing him to make save after eye-popping save.
With 28 seconds left before entering the first intermission with a scoreless tie though, Michael Ryder fired a one-timer past Semyon Varlamov on the power play to give the Bruins, who had been outchanced and outshot, a lead. Boston rolled that energy into the second period, hemmed the Capitals in their own end on a long shift and scored again on a tally by rookie Jordan Caron.
In less than three minutes stretching between the two periods, Boston snatched control of the game, and the Capitals never fully recovered as the Bruins handed Washington a 4-1 loss and its second straight defeat.
"They get the one goal at the end [of the first] and that's not a big deal. One goal isn't going to scare us," Brooks Laich said. "But in the second period they started to move their legs and win battles. Defensively, we weren't moving our legs. We were standing, still not picking up our assignments. They had one shift where they really holed us up in our zone and they scored their second goal on that shift and that might have been the turning point in the hockey game."
Thomas was the unquestioned leader for Boston (4-1) once again against the Capitals as he stopped all but one of the 39 shots Washington (4-3) fired on net By holding the Capitals at bay, Thomas gave the Bruins time to find a rhythm in their home opener at TD Garden. When Washington attempted a futile comeback, he made just one error in coming far out of his net to the slot to play the puck, which led directly to Washington's only goal by Jason Chimera.
In two games against the Capitals this week, Thomas stopped 73 of 75 shots and through four contests overall this year he has allowed just three tallies on 136 shots for a .978 save percentage and 0.75 goals against average.
"His lateral movement was just phenomenal [Thursday]," said Mike Knuble, who took five shots. "I don't know if he was playing back in his net, but he was getting across the ice. . . . He was a huge part of this game."
Ryder's second goal of the season with such little time left in the opening frame negated much of what the Capitals had managed to accomplish by starting quickly. It also snapped Washington's run of perfection while short-handed at 25 straight successful penalty kills to start the year. By game's end the Bruins would finish 3 for 4 with the man-advantage as well.
At the beginning of the second period, the Capitals' top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Knuble got caught in their own zone for a shift 1 minute and 52 seconds long. The Bruins used that time to run Washington ragged, take five shots on goal - with another attempt blocked and two more that missed - and complete a full line change of their own.
With the second set of Bruins bearing down, Washington left a large portion of the slot unattended where Patrice Bergeron sent a pass to Caron, who fired a wrist shot just under the crossbar for a 2-0 Boston edge. It was the third straight game that the Capitals dug themselves a two-goal hole to start a game.
The Bruins continued to dominate possession, drew a pair of penalties in the middle of the second and scored again when Nathan Horton's blast on the power play squeaked through Varlamov's pads to make it 3-0.
"It looks like we were greatly outplayed, but if it weren't for those six or seven minutes when they got two on us, I felt we were in a pretty good game," Knuble said. "We gave one power-play goal up at the end of the first. [It was] frustrating."
Although the Capitals totaled 39 shots, with 13 in each period, it seemed that with every save, some routine, some improbable, Thomas grew more confident. He stopped eight shots from Ovechkin alone, and several key scoring chances by each line.
"We had lots of chances to score," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We just didn't."