- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 21, 2012

BOSTON — That’s not Tim Thomas. Troy Brouwer streaked down the right wing, found space and fired one over his shoulder. No deflection. No screen.

“He fooled me and beat me clean,” the Boston Bruins goaltender said. “He’s coming down with a lot of speed and he shot and I read that the shot was going lower. And by the time I even realized that the shot was going that high, I didn’t even have time to raise my hand.”

By that point, the Bruins didn’t even have time to regroup, either, as Brouwer’s goal with 1:27 left gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory and a 3-2 lead in this first-round series.

To say it was a goal last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner would want back is an understatement. Karl Alzner recalled watching with amazement as Brouwer picked a corner.

“We all looked at each other on the bench as a D core with just kind of our eyes wide open like, ‘Holy smokes, I can’t believe we just scored there.’ That’s a huge goal,” the defenseman said. “It’s so emotional, that entire game back and forth, that it’s a little bit of a sigh of relief and you breathe for a second. But it was just amazing. It was a good shot by Brouw.”

A good shot that the 26-year-old forward was even a bit surprised beat Thomas.

“Because he’s such a good tender, most of the time you’re not going to score on a straight shot,” he said.

There was plenty of debate as to the validity of Benoit Pouliot’s slashing penalty that led to the power play, given the higher standard for penalties in playoff games. But in a series where breaks are going both ways, the Caps took advantage of this one.

Brouwer and so many other Caps players have talked about just putting shots on net, and that’s all he had to do to come up with the game-winner. Defenseman John Carlson found Brouwer with a perfect pass to lead him into the zone and the big right wing did the rest.

“It was pretty cool shot and pretty tough shot,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “I don’t think Thomas expected that kind of stuff from him.”

That wouldn’t be surprising. Brouwer doesn’t have the deft touch or laser aim of Alexander Semin, who made a perfect shot to win Game 4 on the power play.

But this one was as perfect as it could get for the Caps, and the biggest goal of the series.

Asked what went through his mind when he saw the puck hit the net and make the net flutter, Brouwer laughed.

“Some relief, that’s for sure,” he said. “A lot of joy.”