Blood remained on the bridge of Zdeno Chara’s nose well after the power play the Boston Bruins got from Alex Ovechkin’s high stick. But that didn’t last as long as the impact of the Washington Capitals’ crucial penalty kill.
Four minutes on the kill, one shot by the Bruins and a game-changing moment as fans at Verizon Center exploded to show their appreciation.
“That four-minute power play just kind of sucked the momentum out of our hockey club and gave them some momentum,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I thought that after they killed that four-minute penalty they really picked up some life and in the second period they were without a doubt the better team.”
It didn’t produce any offense, but the Caps killing off those four minutes and a crucial four-on-three at the end of the second period and start of the third were some of the finest moments Sunday, even in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.
For the likes of Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, it was business as usual as they blocked shots and limited the Bruins to chances from the outside.
“You seen the guys blocking shots, Brooksie, Hendricks, Alzner. They were going down, sacrificing,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “Especially with a guy like Chara shooting, you know how hard he can he can shoot. It’s the character of the guys that sacrifice their bodies.”
Backstrom blocked a shot on that Bruins power play, which included Hendricks putting as many pucks on net as Boston. Dennis Seidenberg’s blast from 50 feet was the only save Braden Holtby had to make.
Bailing out Ovechkin for his penalty was yet another example of Washington’s penalty kill frustrating the Bruins, who are just 2 for 20 in the series. But Alzner admitted to butterflies at the second intermission with Boston staring at 1:22 of four-on-three time.
“It was fresh ice, guys move the puck really well, shoot the puck well. And I gave Hendy a bad pass and kind of caused the whole play for the penalty,” Alzner said. “So we were getting nervous about it. But we got some good killers, guys that have been playing well, blocking a lot of shots. So its not the way you want to start the period, but the momentum helped us.”
Even with plenty of open ice, the Bruins managed just one shot on the four-on-three, and Laich got in front of pucks three times during the kill.
“They didnt get much at all, especially on the four-on-three,” Holtby said. “Even when they tried to shoot, we were in the lane every time, and thats hard to do on a four-on-three. That was good, that kept us in the game.”
It wasn’t enough to propel the Caps to a Game 6 victory, however, as Julien pointed out the Bruins were then able to get back on track in the third period and overtime. But penalty kills such as those are milestones if Washington is to make a substantial run this spring.
But with each blocked shot, bruise and need for an ice pack or two, the Caps are paying a heavy price.
“Both sides are, I imagine, a little bit banged up,” Hunter said. “But little bruises, they’ll forget about them come Game 7.”
• Stephen Whyno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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