After splitting eight head-to-head meetings with the Boston Bruins during the regular season, the Washington Capitals have a leg up on them thanks to their 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of the East Division playoffs on Saturday.
Washington entered this game a little bit healthier than it did the last time these two teams met on Tuesday. John Carlson returned from a two-game absence because of a lower-body injury. Alex Ovechkin only played 19 minutes as he was returning from a lower-body injury.
Nic Dowd scored the game-winner 4:41 into overtime. The officials did review the play after it appeared the Capitals may have been offside, but replay confirmed the goal was good to end the game.
Notable Game Stats
- T.J. Oshie (WAS): 2 assists
- Nic Dowd (WAS): 1 goal (2 shots)
- Alexander Ovechkin (WAS): 1 assist
- Jake DeBrusk (BOS): 1 goal
- Nick Ritchie (BOS): 1 goal
Capitals' Injury Woes Continue in Win
Dowd's heroics will help cover up what looks to be an ongoing depth problem for the Capitals.
Washington started this series shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov didn't play in Saturday's game.
Things appeared to get worse for the Capitals midway through the first quarter. Starting goalie Vitek Vanecek appeared to injure his lower body while attempting to make a save on Jake DeBrusk's goal.
That left Craig Anderson, who started a total of two games during the regular season, to step into the net. It marked the 39-year-old's first playoff appearance in four years.
Despite being down to their third-string goalie, the Capitals showed no fear against a game Bruins team. Anderson stopped his first 10 shots after taking over and 21 of 22 overall.
Washington's offense continued applying pressure on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. Tom Wilson got the puck past him at the 6:22 mark of the first period to put the Capitals on top 1-0.
DeBrusk squared things at one with his goal on the play when Vanecek was injured. The score remained even until Dillon broke the stalemate. It appeared as if he was trying to find Ovechkin on a pass, but the puck changed direction at the last second and bounced over Rask's shoulder.
It looked like Washington was poised to take control of things at that moment, but the offense frequently struggled to get into a consistent rhythm.
The physical style of play by both teams worked against the Capitals in this game. Boston had a four to one advantage in power-play opportunities.
Washington had the fifth-best penalty-kill percentage in the league during the regular season (84.0).
Eventually things caught up to the Capitals when Nick Ritchie snuck a shot past Anderson on a power play.
Given how limited Washington's roster is right now, it can't afford to get whistled for this many penalties against an opponent who knows its strengths and weaknesses so well.
The Capitals are in the driver seat early in the series. Their margin for error right now is small, but they have enough talent to cause problems for the Bruins moving forward.
Bruins Can't Take Advantage of Capitals' Mistakes
Coming into the series, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy went on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich show to discuss why his team was set up to handle Wilson's style of play better than the New York Rangers did last week.
"There has to be a little more awareness when he's on the ice. That's built in, I think guys know that," Cassidy said. "But the other stuff, you've got to be careful that you're not putting your team at a disadvantage, yet still keep them honest."
Wilson made Cassidy look silly early with his first-period goal, but that was about the extent of his impact on the game.
The Bruins did a good job of not letting Wilson disrupt their offense. DeBrusk got his team back in the game with a goal that caught Vanecek off guard to the point he did the splits trying to stop the shot.
Even though Washington's defense did its best to keep the Bruins from getting clean looks at the goal, its luck ran out late in the second period. Ritchie was able to poke the puck past Anderson to tie the score at two shortly before the second intermission.
That came one minute after the Capitals were whistled for a high-sticking penalty on Marchand.
One thing that the Bruins can improve upon in Game 2 is the production from their top line. Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for one point and seven shots. Pastrnak had six of those shots.
Boston had a great opportunity to get back on top midway through the third period. Matt Grzelcyk and Chris Wagner had two high-quality shots at the net, but Anderson made plays on both of them to keep the score tied at two.
If the Bruins top line was a disappointment in Game 1, Rask most certainly was not. Cassidy could have had a quick hook on his top goaltender with 22-year-old rookie Jeremy Swayman posting a 94.5 save percentage in the regular season.
Rask did a fantastic job of keeping Washington's potent offense from unloading. The second goal he allowed happened because the puck took a weird hop off the ice. He stopped all eight shots faced in the third, including four in a 45-second stretch.
"I probably bumped it into my own net or something," Rask told reporters after the game about the game-winning goal. "I haven't seen the replay. I think all of the [Capitals] goals hit a stick. That's how it goes sometimes"
This loss doesn't fall on Rask's shoulders. He kept the Bruins in the game throughout regulation. It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch, but Cassidy can feel better about his veteran goaltender going forward.
If the Bruins want to beat the Capitals, they are going to need a more consistent offensive output.
The Bruins and Capitals will play Game 2 of their series on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.