Welcome back to the Morning After, your home for Washington Capitals game analysis in this shortened season.
GAME 21: CAPS 4, BRUINS 3 (OT) (9-11-1, 19 points, 4th in Southeast, 14th in East)
Braden Holtby didn’t have to beat himself up for the first two goals he allowed to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. One came on a Brad Marchand penalty shot and the other on Zdeno Chara put-back from close range.
Giving up a power-play goal on Dougie Hamilton’s point shot wasn’t as easy to get over.
“I didn’t like that goal, so something clicked that I got really frustrated after it and know I can’t give up those goals,” Holtby said. “The guys did a great job bailing me out after that. Seems like after that goal was the turning point.”
Maybe John Erskine’s fight with Shawn Thornton immediately after Hamilton’s goal was the turning point, or maybe it was the first intermission, when Aaron Volpatti told his teammates to worry about anything but winning the second period.
But one thing is for certain: Holtby maintained his composure after those three goals in 19 minutes. He stopped 23 consecutive shots from that point until the end of the game.
“He closed the door and we found another way to win for him,” coach Adam Oates said. “He shut out Winnipeg and gave us a chance there … and we found a way to help him tonight.”
Oates conceded he thought about pulling Holtby in favor of Michal Neuvirth to spark his team.
“It crossed my mind” Oates said. “He deserves to give us a chance to let us fight back for him, and we got through the period. That was my thought. I thought about it, and I said, ‘You know, he deserves it.’ “
Talking about the comeback, captain Alex Ovechkin credited Holtby for making “unbelievable saves.”
Holtby didn’t have to make a lot of 10-bell saves, but stops on odd-man rushes were crucial.
“We had a lot of outnumbered situations in the third where we could have sealed the deal,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “But our inability to score just kept them in the game.”
Ovechkin crashed into the net three times Tuesday night, taking what looked like the biggest impact when he was hooked by Chara early in the third period.
“Playing against Chara there, and that’s a big man,” Oates said. “That’s a huge collision, and he’s really the only forward in the league that can do that.”
Asked if he was all right, Ovechkin smiled and said: “Yeah. Kind of. Kind of all right.” He didn’t practice Wednesday with the Caps, though only six players who were in the lineup against the Bruins were on the ice.
Coaches always want their players to crash the net to create scoring chances, but not literally crashing in and knocking the net off its moorings every time.
“Yeah, I was worried about that,” Oates said. “That’s a dangerous play. That’s why the nets got changed, and we’re all worried about him.”
The Caps’ took Volpatti’s message about the second period to heart. Forward Matt Hendricks said the change from the first-period malaise started with Jay Beagle, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward.
“I thought Beags’ line, Beags and Chimmer and Wardo, had a lot of energy going,” Hendricks said. “They made some great cycle plays, some great dumps and I think they kind of got our energy going on the bench. And then Ovi making a fantastic play to [Mike Ribeiro] to get that first goal, and we just kind of went from there.”
Volpatti wasn’t the only one who talked, and Beagle, Chimera and Ward weren’t the only players who executed better.
“We went back to dressing room, talk about our system, what we have to do: put the pucks deep,” said defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who scored his first career NHL goal Tuesday. “And we started doing it, created a lot of chances and it was great, great, great comeback.”
If the goal was to frustrate the Bruins, it worked. Goaltender Tuukka Rask said they were “asleep” in the second period.
“They played good in the second. We just couldn’t match it,” Rask said. “We were sloppy on the forecheck and not doing the things we’re supposed to, and they just kept coming on odd-man rushes. Then, in our own end, we were puck-watching and all of a sudden, it’s in our net.”
One thing Oates mentioned as far back as Monday was that the Bruins were playing their fourth game in six nights. He expected some fatigue, and the Caps tried to exploit that.
“We knew they had, I think, four games in the last six days, so we just kept pushing, played smart after the first one, put pucks behind those D’s and start forechecking and just grind them and it paid off,” Ribeiro said. “We just pushed this game along for 60 minutes, we were able to tie the game and then win in OT.”