BOSTON — The road has not been friendly to the Washington Capitals. But with their season hinging on this late stretch of 15 games, they came away from a Saturday matinee against the defending Stanley Cup champions with what could prove to be a signature win.
The Capitals never trailed in a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins. It marked the first time since December that Washington, which improved to 12-18-3 away from Verizon Center, has won consecutive road games.
“We haven’t been great on the road,” defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “We knew that we were getting down to the nitty-gritty here and we had to get some wins. Obviously this is one of the toughest buildings to come into and get two points. This was a huge win for us.”
Goals by four players — Alexander Semin, Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle and Brooks Laich — combined with a steady performance from Tomas Vokoun (30 saves) helped Washington weather all attempts at a comeback by the Bruins (40-24-3).
Washington seized control of the contest with just 8 minutes 15 seconds gone in the first period with the second of two goals 25 seconds apart.
The first scoring play began with a point shot by Karl Alzner that Boston netminder Tim Thomas (26 saves) stopped, but the puck bounced directly to Semin in the right faceoff circle for a shot into an open cage.
On the ensuing shift, the third line quickly made a presence in the Bruins’ crease. Hendricks took multiple whacks at a loose puck before swatting it past Thomas to make it 2-0. The sudden lead for the visitors and a flat start by the Bruins, who entered with a 20-12-2 home record, silenced the crowd at TD Garden.
“For us, especially on the road and against team like that, it’s a big thing to score first goal and get up 2-0,” Vokoun said. “Scoring four goals is a key for us. Sometimes we play good games, but when you don’t score it’s tough to win and we buried our chances today. That’s usually the difference. Usually when we lose we’re not able to score or score one goal, and it’s tough to win like that.”
The Bruins pushed back and with seconds remaining in the period scored a goal that could have demoralized Washington. After an icing call with roughly nine seconds left resulted in a faceoff to the left of the Washington goal, Patrice Bergeron beat Beagle on the draw. The puck wound up on the stick of Milan Lucic, who shot between Vokoun’s legs to put Boston on the board just 5.6 seconds before intermission.
Within five minutes of the second period, Boston tied the score at 2. Jordan Caron hit Alex Ovechkin along the boards near the Washington bench, forcing a turnover that allowed Brad Marchand to skate in alone on Vokoun and fire a wrister into the net.
“That’s a coach’s nightmare when you score late in the period like that,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “They came out and tied it up, too, but we just kept pushing.”
Unlike so many games on the road this season, though, the Capitals refused to yield to the growing momentum from the opposition. A Washington power play that created chances but no goal had just expired when Beagle shot a one-timer past Thomas to make it 3-2 at 11:22 of the second.
The Capitals earned two more power plays in the next five minutes and started to chip away at an unorganized Boston penalty kill. With 17:31 gone in the second and only three seconds left on a power play, Laich deflected a shot by Wideman past Thomas for a 4-2 lead. The cushion put the Capitals in comfortable position heading into the third; they improved to 20-0-0 this season when leading after 40 minutes.
“I think we can focus a little bit more on our defensive style,” Hendricks said of Washington’s mentality with a late lead. “We’re not taking too many chances, as you can tell. We were really focused on getting pucks deep, keeping pucks down behind their net. When there were chances or rushes against, we tried to make them so they’re not odd-man.”
Boston made a final push with 3:13 left when Johnny Boychuk beat John Carlson to a loose puck in front of the net to make the score 4-3. But the Capitals hung on to take two points back to Verizon Center, where they will host Toronto on Sunday.
“It doesn’t matter how that happens at the end, you’ve just got to make sure you get the win,” Alzner said. “That’s the old saying – it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, right? We’re just happy that we got the two points.”