- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2021

With one carom off the glass, the wheels fell off for the Washington Capitals. They had entered the second intermission down by one goal, but a minute and three seconds into the third period, the Capitals suddenly faced a three-goal deficit and an even more daunting hole in the series.

First, Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak sniped a shot past goaltender Ilya Samsonov 29 seconds into the period. Then on a breakaway, winger Jake DeBrusk missed the net. But the ensuing deflection off the glass landed on a platter for the trailing Charlie Coyle to steer home, 34 seconds after Pastrnak’s tally, pushing the game out of reach.

Boston, buoyed by those two scores right out of the second intermission, handed Washington its third straight loss of the series — this time a 4-1 game that gave the Bruins a 3-1 series lead. Neither team led by more than one goal in the first three games of the series. But the third period of Game 4 on Friday broke the seal of an otherwise watertight trio of games.

“This one, we just weren’t good enough,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We weren’t fast enough. We didn’t execute well enough.”

And the frustration showed after Coyle’s rebound goal rippled the net.

Tom Wilson, never one to shy away from confrontation, quickly got into a tussle with Nick Ritchie after Boston’s third goal went in. Alex Ovechkin laid a crunching hit on Brad Marchand moments later. Those displays didn’t help on the scoreboard, though. And despite Ovechkin’s goal five minutes into the period, the Bruins exerted their dominance 10 minutes later — doing so on the power play.

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk launched a slap shot past Samsonov for the 4-1 edge in another strong power-play showing. The man-advantage opportunities were ample for both teams, but Boston made the most of its chances, scoring on three of its five power plays.

“I’m not picking on any guys here, but it’s crucial to stay disciplined in the playoffs,” center Lars Eller said. “We can’t put ourselves down five, six penalties, whatever it was we had. We’ve just got to be better in that department. More disciplined, don’t put ourselves in that situation.”

Meanwhile, the Capitals scored on one of their seven power plays — with Ovechkin’s shot careening off defenseman Brandon Carlo’s skate. The power play unit struggled to work Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, three times registering no shots on goal during those two-minute spans.

Boston blocked 17 shots and put 37 attempts on frame compared to Washington’s 20, the widest shot discrepancy of the series so far.

“I feel like we have to come up with something new here,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I feel like they’re reading us pretty well.”

Washington stuck with Samsonov in net for Game 4 after his strong performance for 85 minutes Wednesday. He stopped 40 shots in that 3-2 double-overtime defeat, but a critical miscommunication with defenseman Justin Schultz ended the game on a sour note.

Boston’s Craig Smith raced in to steal the loose puck behind the cage after Samsonov thought Schultz would come to collect. And before Samsonov could scamper back into position, Smith wrapped around the net and fired home the winning goal.

That gave the Bruins a 2-1 series advantage, putting pressure on Washington to dig deep Friday. But the response wasn’t strong. Samsonov was forced into making 11 saves in the first period, and the Capitals managed two shots during even-strength scenarios.

Washington went without a shot on target for 18 minutes spanning between the first and second periods, although winger Tom Wilson dinged the crossbar with an effort off a 2-on-1 transition early in the second.

“It’s not a lot of shots and it’s not good enough on our side,” Backstrom said. “Somehow, we have to create some more offensive chances.”

For all the pressure on Washington’s goal, though, Boston didn’t find the opener until eight minutes into the second period. Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov was issued a double minor for roughing, hitting defenseman Kevan Miller up high as Miller attempted to pass Orlov near the blue line. Miller went down hard, hitting his helmet on the ice, and the Bruins announced he had been transported to the hospital for scans and further evaluation.

Thirty-three seconds into the ensuing power play, Marchand deflected Pastrnak’s shot past Samsonov, finally beating the 24-year-old netminder. Samsonov finished with 33 saves. He wasn’t the reason Washington crumbled at the beginning of the third period, allowing quick-fire goals to Pastrnak and Coyle that virtually sealed the result.

But the Capitals crumbled nonetheless, and they’ll face an elimination game when the series returns to Washington on Sunday.

“We need the best from everybody, from every individual,” Eller said. “We need a lot more than what we got tonight. And I know we can do it.”

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