- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2021

For much of the game, the Washington Capitals held Brad Marchand in check. Matching the Capitals’ fourth line with the Boston Bruins’ prime scoring threats, Marchand managed just 0.01 individual expected goals for, per Natural Stat Trick, through three periods.

But it took just five seconds for a defensive breakdown to turn into Marchand’s game-winning goal during overtime Monday. That’s what good players can do — and that’s the cost of an ill-timed giveaway.

Defenseman Brenden Dillon turned the puck over in Washington’s defensive zone, and two passes later, Marchand fired a one-timer past goaltender Craig Anderson. That blast 39 seconds into overtime gave Boston a 4-3 win and leveled the series at one game apiece, and it was a swift dichotomy from the scene two days earlier at the end of Game 1.

On Saturday, the Capitals were the team celebrating a game-winning goal in overtime, with Nic Dowd breaking through to give his squad a one-game advantage. But Monday, with more injury concerns, the Bruins mobbed Marchand as the Capitals skated swiftly off the Capital One Arena ice.

“We knew they were going to come back with a little bit more bite tonight offensively and some of the things we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit with execution,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “So there’s thing I think we can do better as we head to Boston.”

Boston scored twice late — once at the end of the third period and again right at the start of extra time — to sink what had been a solid effort for much of the contest. The Capitals twice came back from deficits in the first period, then took a lead in the third.

But the edge didn’t last.

Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson stopped 36 straight shots after allowing the second Bruins goal in the first period, and he finished with 44 saves. But late in the third, the puck remained loose in the crease as Anderson went to the ice, spread-eagled, trying to cover it up. Instead, Taylor Hall whacked the puck into the back of the net during the mad scramble, tying the game at 3-3.

The goaltender made a critical stop moments later, snaring an effort from Jake DeBrusk from the right circle on a two-on-one advantage, ensuring overtime was a possibility. And the extra period shouldn’t have been much of a surprise — the last 11 games between Boston and Washington in the playoffs have been decided by one-goal margins.

This time, Marchand had the final say, capitalizing on a strong cross-rink pass from David Krejci that caught Anderson shuffling in his crease and the Capitals defense out of position.

“They moved it quick. They went through a seam,” Laviolette said. “I think there was a little bit of confusion because there were two guys down low and we weren’t able to get in the seam to take away the pass. It traveled distance, he was able to get a shot off, so again, there’s things that we could have done better.”

Washington was in that position thanks in large part to what Anderson did in net. The Capitals had planned for something much different in the offseason, with Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek and Henrik Lundqvist their goaltenders of choice. None of them dressed for Game 2.

Samsonov has returned to practice but has missed time after being placed on the NHL’s coronavirus protocol list for the second time this season. Vanecek left Game 1 with a lower-body injury, and Capitals Laviolette still described the rookie as day-to-day. And Lundqvist announced in December that a heart condition would require surgery, forcing him to miss the season.

So instead, Anderson started in net Monday. The 39-year-old is no stranger in playoff games. He’s appeared in 47 playoff games during his 18-year career entering Monday, posting a .929 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average.

Anderson allowed goals from DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron within the first five shots he faced, but he settled down well. He parried 44 shots, the 11th time in his playoff career he’s posted 40 or more saves in a game — the most among active goaltenders.

“I thought he played great,” said Garnet Hathaway, who scored two goals for the Capitals. “We needed him to play great and I thought he did. It’s a tough, you know, last minute, couple minutes left for a goal to tie it and then quick in overtime. I think it kind of overshadows how we played and how he played, especially.”

There’s more injury concern following Monday’s game, though. Midway through the second period, center Lars Eller made his way down Washington’s tunnel with a lower-body injury. His departure left the Capitals with two true centers on the ice — Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd — because center Evgeny Kuznetsov returned off the coronavirus protocol list Sunday and isn’t yet ready to play.

Laviolette said the team will “sift through things tonight,” when asked of Eller’s condition.

When Hathaway scored his second goal of the night — and his second ever playoff goal — it appeared as if Washington would overcome those absences again Monday. But Boston had other ideas, finding two late breakthroughs that shifted the series back even.

“We obviously went through it last game. It’s tough to lose in overtime,” Marchand said. “It hurts. You battle back, especially the way we did tonight. We just seemed to have it a little bit more tonight than we did last game.”

Now it’s the Capitals’ turn to feel that overtime sting in the playoffs, and the Capitals’ turn to key in on Wednesday’s Game 3 in Boston as another turning point. That’s the way the series is shaping up to be — two physical teams with little to separate them, especially after regulation.

Saturday required Dowd’s game-winner. Monday took a Marchand overtime goal. Who knows what Wednesday will bring?

“I think we’ll be there with a response,” Laviolette said. “Our guys have always responded in-game and through the course of the season, so we’ll be ready to play.”

 

 

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