It's the worst-kept secret in the NHL that the Washington Capitals aren't a good road team. Even as players shook off concerns about lacking a recipe for success away from Verizon Center, the numbers and listless, lackluster performances told the story.
Then came Saturday, when the Caps managed to author their signature road win of the season by going into TD Garden and knocking off the Boston Bruins.
"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, and obviously this is one of the toughest buildings to come into and get two points. This was a huge win for us."
The final score was 4-3, thanks to a late Boston goal that made things interesting. The Bruins had the Garden rocking when they erased a two-goal deficit, too.
But for the most part this was the Capitals' chance to show the NHL and themselves that they can do what it takes to win on the road.
"That's a gutsy effort for us. We're very happy about that," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We're definitely feeling good about that win. It doesn't matter how that happens at the end, you've just got to make sure you get the win. 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."
Especially at this time of year when two points won or lost can be the difference between a fifth straight Southeast Division title and perhaps missing the playoffs. Struggles by the Florida Panthers coupled with a hot run by Washington could even ease the tensions down the stretch.
But it starts with one game, and that might have come Saturday. First-period goals by forwards Alexander Semin and Matt Hendricks 25 seconds apart put the Bruins in chase mode. Forwards Jay Beagle and Brooks Laich later capitalized on their chances to silence a team that had battled back to forge a 2-2 tie.
Tomas Vokoun's goaltending was key, as he robbed Tyler Seguin a couple of times and even nonchalantly tossed the puck aside after a big stop. But Vokoun praised his teammates for getting dirty goals on the other end.
"Five-on-five, you've got to bang second or third rebounds in or [get a] deflection or something like that. Teams are fighting for position. Everybody's fighting for something," he said. "It's a late stretch in the season. Everybody's playing their system well. and it's tough to score."
But the Caps also have proved it's tough for them to win on the road. Leading at the second intermission goes a long way, as they're 20-0-0 with that advantage this season.
Hendricks said that's about focusing on defensive style and not worrying about the risk-reward element of the game. Play it safe, pick up a victory that could provide a spark moving forward.
"Anytime you're on the road playing in a tough building, such as especially this one against the Stanley Cup champions of this year, it's got to build our confidence a bit," Hendricks said.
With five straight road games at the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia starting Tuesday on Long Island, this victory in Boston could not have come at a better time.
The Capitals play eight of their final 13 games on the road, where they're now 12-18-3.
"It's a very big win for our team," Laich said. "This time of year we're not worried what our road record is, we're not worried about the overall record, we're just focusing on a single game."
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