It was a harmless-looking shot.
Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer was in the right circle late in the game during a Washington power play and had a clear shooting lane.
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who has been formidable, was able to see Brouwer’s snap shot, but it sailed past the netminder and proved to be the difference in Game 5 as the Capitals won, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
Washington can eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions at the Verizon Center Sunday afternoon.
The Capitals lead the series, 3-2, which isn’t bad for a team that had to battle to make it into the postseason.
The Capitals lost six of their final 12 regular-season games, but rallied to win four of the last five to earn the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve kind of been in playoff mode for quite a while now,’’ said Brouwer. “Going into the last couple of games in the regular season, not even sure if we were going to make the playoffs, I like the way we kind of rolled into the playoffs, having a couple of real good games.
“I think all through this series here, we’ve been playing the right way. Guys have been making sure we’ve been playing the right way and we’re limiting our turnovers, which is what Boston thrives off of. We’re cleaning up a lot of the mistakes we were making in the regular season.’’
Brouwer acknowledged his goal isn’t usually one that Thomas gives up. Thomas said he thought the puck was coming in low, but it beat him over the shoulder.
“I saw the D man kind of turn to the middle of the ice and I had a lane and I just went down and took the shot,’’ said Brouwer. “Our power play was struggling a little bit just before that, but guys worked hard and it was a good finish.’’
Brouwer, who has two goals in the series, said he was mostly relieved when he scored, given that there was only 1 minute and 27 seconds remaining. And he was a little bit surprised.
“Because he’s such a good tender, most of the time you’re not going to score on a straight shot,’’ said Brouwer, “so it was a little bit surprising that I was able to beat him.’’
The Bruins had the momentum leading up to Benoit Pouliot’s slashing call at 17:10, which resulted in the Washington power play.
“We were getting buzzed a little bit and I think they had a little bit of momentum off their power-play goal,’’ Brouwer said. “For us to be able to get a power play late and create a little bit of offense and ultimately get a goal, it’s good.’’
Brouwer said he has learned how resilient and committed the team is to playing as a unit.
“You learn about the character of guys, really,’’ he said. “Alex Semin going down and blocking shots, [Alex Ovechkin] taking hits to make plays. Those guys that you normally wouldn’t categorize in that type of role are doing what they need to do to win hockey games.
“There are a lot of supporting guys who are scoring goals. That’s what you need if you are going to win in the playoffs.’’
The Capitals know the Bruins won’t go down without a fight. Brouwer said the key to winning a fourth game is patience.
“We can’t get away and try to play an odd-man rush game,’’ said Brouwer. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing what we did to make us successful in our three wins so far - blocking shots, playing tight [defensively], tight through the neutral zone. And when we get our opportunities, we’ve got to make the best of them.’’
And he is expecting Game 6 to be rough sledding, just like the previous five.
“Both teams are out there battling real hard,’’ said Brouwer. “There is a lot of skill on both sides and they’re working hard and both goalies are playing real well. Right now, it seems to be whoever is going to get a late goal is going to move on and get the win in the game.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.