As they stand now, the Bruins are not equipped to chase the game. Tim Thomas has been good, not great. They are missing too much firepower in Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley. When Benoit Pouliot proclaimed himself unfit to go after pregame warmups Saturday, the Bruins were down to 11 forwards.
Yet there the Bruins were, for the second time in six days, down two goals in the first period, their coach forced to burn his timeout.
“Just flat,’’ said Johnny Boychuk. “The first couple shifts weren’t the way we wanted to go. Once we called that timeout, things started to roll around the way we wanted it to.’’
The Bruins wiped out one two-goal deficit. They couldn’t negate a second one.
The Capitals busted a 2-2 tie with two second-period goals and held off a third-period rally to claim a 4-3 win Saturday before 17,565 at TD Garden.
“It’s tough to play catch-up hockey in this league,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “That’s what we’ve been doing a lot. Way too much. We’re struggling with playing with the lead and creating it.
“I just slowed things down again and told them we need to pick up our pace here and pick up our game. We scored a big goal late in the first. That kind of gave us some life again.
“But the same thing happened again in the second period. We spotted them a two-goal lead.’’
Last Sunday, the Rangers struck twice in the first period. The Bruins rallied, but didn’t have enough punch and dropped a 4-3 decision. The same thing took place against the fading Capitals.
At 7:50 of the first, Alexander Semin rapped home the rebound of a Karl Alzner shot. Thomas (26 saves) had a bead on Alzner’s shot, and as he waited for it, he wanted to kick the puck out to the left corner. But the shot caromed off Thomas’s stick, not his pad. The goalie didn’t even know Semin was lurking until the puck was in the net.
“I’d love to control every rebound,’’ Thomas said. “But that’s not reality.’’
Twenty-five seconds later, the Capitals socked the Bruins again.
As Matt Hendricks tapped a pass down the wall into the corner, Washington’s Jay Beagle won a 50-50 puck from Joe Corvo. Beagle went up top to Dmitry Orlov, then broke for the front of the net.
Thomas made one save on Orlov’s point shot, then got a piece of Troy Brouwer’s rebound. But Hendricks hopped on the loose puck and beat Thomas at 8:15 to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
Julien had to call his timeout to settle his charges.
“We talked about that before the game,’’ Julien said of Washington’s in-tight skill. “If they have some loose guys around the net, they’re dangerous.
“The first goal was from a rebound and the guy’s all by himself. The second one, there’s a loose puck right in front of our goaltender. We have two D’s there. In the battle, we just lost the race from the corner back to the front of the net as well.
“It’s just sloppiness from our part.’’
While Julien called his timeout, the equipment staff was most likely hustling to swap out the decaf that had somehow polluted the coffeemaker.
“It’s not really acceptable,’’ Boychuk said. “Especially when, before the game, we talk about how we want to have a good start. That’s not the start we wanted.
“As soon as we called the timeout, it was like night and day. We realized, ‘Oh, we’re going to play.’ Once we realized that, I thought we played some good hockey.’’
With 5.6 seconds remaining in the first, Milan Lucic slipped a puck between Tomas Vokoun’s pads. Patrice Bergeron had won an offensive-zone faceoff against Beagle, then pushed the puck forward to Lucic’s blade.
The Bruins tied the game at 4:58 of the second. Alex Ovechkin, facing forechecking heat from Jordan Caron, threw a pass that Orlov couldn’t handle. Brad Marchand found the loose puck and hesitated slightly on the partial breakaway, which altered Vokoun’s timing. Marchand slipped the puck past Vokoun to make it a 2-2 game.
But the Capitals countered with two second-period goals. After Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid collided in the defensive zone, Semin gathered the puck in the corner. With both defensemen out of position, Semin found Beagle driving to the net. Beagle beat Thomas at 11:22 to give Washington the lead.
The Capitals grabbed a two-goal advantage with a power-play strike. With Greg Zanon in the box for roughing, Dennis Wideman spotted Brooks Laich in front. Laich shoveled in Wideman’s feed at 17:31 to make it a 4-2 game.
The Bruins poured on the pressure late in the third. Boychuk, from in tight, pumped in the rebound of a Marchand shot at 16:47.
In the final minute, Marchand and Bergeron had net-front chances that didn’t go in.
“It’s hard to put a finger on something,’’ Bergeron said. “We came out flat. They got the lead. When you’re behind the 8-ball early, it’s always hard to get back in the game.
“Then we gave up the lead again. We’re not going to win too many games if we’re battling back all game.’’Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.