By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 6, 2010; 12:58 AM
Through 40 minutes the Washington Capitals dominated the Boston Bruins, out-shooting them, out-chancing them while simultaneously leaving little breathing room for the opponent offensively. But after demonstrating a close attention to detail and blue-collar effort in the first two periods and establishing a three-goal lead Friday night, a lapse at the start of the third period threatened Washington's chances of success.
For the second straight contest, the Capitals gave up multiple goals in the opening minutes of the final period, but this time they didn't need to hang on for a shootout win. Washington managed to readjust to capture a 5-3 victory at Verizon Center thanks to a game-winning tally by rookie defenseman John Carlson.
Despite extending their winning streak to three games and defeating the Bruins for the first time this season, Mike Green said the Capitals must continue to focus on finding a way to play on an even keel throughout an entire contest.
"If we're going to be a playoff hockey team we've got to get over this hump and we have to get rid of this old habit, and really that's the biggest thing that's affected us over the years," said Green, who posted two points and has scored goals in three consecutive games.
"I think most of the second period there we were dumping pucks in," Green said. "We were chasing it and we were making it hard for them to make plays in our zone, and when they did make turnovers we capitalized on it and that's our game right there. Any time we stray away from it we cause ourselves problems and you witnessed that in the third period."
After losing their first two meetings against Boston, 3-1 and 4-1 on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21, respectively, the Capitals believed they needed to play with a maximum amount of elbow grease to prevent a third defeat.
They couldn't afford to lose one-on-one battles on the boards and in the corners, and for the majority of the first and second periods Washington's grit and hard-nosed efforts rendered Boston helpless.
The two teams entered the second period in a scoreless tie but it didn't take long for the Capitals to relay their territorial advantage from the first period to the scoreboard. Less than a minute into the frame, Tyler Sloan scored his fourth NHL goal with a blast from the point that found its way past Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. At that point, Washington took control of the game offensively.
Green's tally made it 2-0 and for the first time this year, Thomas, who entered the contest with the league's best save percentage and goals against average, looked vulnerable. Late in the frame - in a stellar individual effort - Alexander Semin poke-checked the puck out of Washington's zone while on the penalty kill. Semin then beat Patrice Bergeron along the boards to gain possession and create a three-on-one where he recorded his eighth goal of the season to give the Capitals a 3-0 edge.
After scoring only two goals on 82 shots against Thomas in seven periods of play, the Capitals recorded three on 14 shots in the second period. Washington was equally strong in its own end, giving up just six shots and out-shooting Boston, 25-9, entering the third.
"We didn't rely on the great save in the second period to look at the discrepancy in the goals," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't know if they had a scoring chance, maybe one in the second period. And we did what we had to do and that's get it deep, win the battles, go to the net and shoot the puck."
Boston pulled Thomas for the start of the third and inserted Tuukka Rask, a move that coincided with a brief blip in the opening five minutes where Washington was called for two penalties - hooking on Jason Chimera and interference on John Erskine.
The successive power plays were all the Bruins needed to climb back into the game off goals by Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton just 55 seconds apart. With a backhand shot near the 10-minute mark, Shawn Thornton tied the game at 3 and prompted Boudreau to take out Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth and give Braden Holtby his first appearance in an NHL game. Neuvirth finished with 11 saves in his 12th start of the season.
"I thought Neuvy didn't look very good on goals two and three," Boudreau said. "I didn't know if it was fair to Braden to put his first game in 10 minutes to go against Boston a tied game but he did outstanding."
Holtby made four saves and, with Carlson's blast after a face-off win by Boyd Gordon that allowed the Capitals to regain the lead, earned his first NHL victory with the relief effort.