This wasn't the first time the Washington Capitals stared at a first intermission deficit that looked insurmountable. It likely won't be the last.
“You start to think after the first period like that, same old song and dance that we’ve been in,” goaltender Braden Holtby said.
But Tuesday night was a whole new song, and the dancing was yet to come.
Unlike previous games, the Caps didn't fold against the Boston Bruins. Perhaps that's because they didn't think spotting the 2011 Stanley Cup champions a three-goal lead was that bad to begin win.
“Sometimes when you get behind, it’s how,” coach Adam Oates said. “I think sometimes it’s easier to convince the guys that we did vs. Philly, when, ‘Hey, c’mon, coach, we’re leaking oil. Who you kidding?’ ”
Believing they were still in it after a deflating first period, the Caps didn't abandon the plan. “We stayed with the system,” right wing Eric Fehr said. The end result was a thrilling comeback and a 4-3 overtime victory that could do wonders for a team in the long run.
“Huge comeback,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We need the points. We can't lose the games. We have to fight through, it doesn't matter what, what's gonna happen there, like if we're gonna lose it. We just have to make a point, one point or two points. These two points is huge for us. We're in that kind of position what we have to fight through it and don't give up.”
Falling behind a dominant Bruins team 3-0 in the first period is usually a recipe for giving up and living to find two points another day. But center Mike Ribeiro pointed to errors: His own turnover that led to a penalty shot, a missed assignment and a penalty that helped Boston build the lead.
This wasn't about the Caps falling apart. This wasn't like last week's Flyers loss when they had nothing in the tank. And that's why the message between the first and second periods was simple. Oates told his team it was going to take 40 minutes to chip away.
But it was newcomer Aaron Volpatti who crystalized the Caps' mission even better.
“He said, 'Boys, let's just focus on winning the second period,' ” forward Matt Hendricks said. “Instead of looking at the big picture, looking at being down by three, he said let's just look at this next 20 minutes. We're focused on winning this 20. I think we came out and did that.”
The Caps so dominated the second that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said he and his teammates “just couldn't match it.” They tilted the ice and made it a game with goals from Ribeiro and defenseman Tomas Kundratek.
Watching Holtby stunt odd-man rushes by Boston, the Caps enjoyed plenty of their own. In the third period it felt like a matter of time until they tied it.
“In the third we have that kind of feelings, I think, like we're gonna come back because we was dominating them,” Ovechkin said.
Wojtek Wolski provided the spark with his first goal since Feb. 1. Fehr's game winner was a “highlight-reel goal,” Oates said, that Bruins defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Dougie Hamilton will be seeing in their nightmares.
“I kind of blacked out for a bit there but saw the puck on my stick close to the net, saw [Rask] was leaning my way and just tried to chip it over,” Fehr said.
It was a dream ending and night for the Caps, who needed 40 minutes and 37 seconds to get back into a game they desperately needed to win. In doing so they picked up two valuable points and kept pace in the Eastern Conference.
“We didn’t give up at all today,” Fehr said. “We know how important it is to string some wins together and come back against a team that good means a lot and hopefully we can keep going.”
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