The Bruins rolled up shot after shot Saturday night as if racing around the aisles of “Supermarket Sweep”, eagerly grabbing goodies off the shelves. To their chagrin, not enough of the 87 shot attempts they piled up made their way into the basket.
Despite their impressive offensive flair, and despite rallying back from a 3-0 hole they fell into midway through the second, the Bruins watched goal-scoring dynamo Alex Ovechkin — in his first game back from a four-game suspension — race over the blue line 28 seconds into overtime and sizzle a long-range wrister by Tuukka Rask for a 4-3 victory at Capital One Arena.
Rask, slightly injured earlier in the week in a win over the Penguins, was beaten on four of only 23 shots, on a night when Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek was constantly under assault and snuffed out 40 of the 43 shots that made it to his net.
All of which is not to say goaltending was the total difference between winning and losing, but it is to say that a better night by Rask could have enabled the Bruins to pocket 2 points instead of 1.
“I thought we were the better team, to be honest with you,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, his charges now 5-1-2 just over two weeks into the new season. “If you look at the overall game, at the end of the day, we made a few mistakes and they’re a team that can capitalize in a hurry…but you need saves, too, to pick you up in some of those instances.”
The Caps’ win, with ex-Bruins captain Zdeno Chara logging 20:54 in ice time, lifted Washington to 6-0-3, putting the sons of Ted Leonsis 3 points ahead of the Bruins in the East. Chara was solid, finished +1, and escaped serious injury late in the first when the puck rode up his stick shaft and nailed him in the face on a David Pastrnak attempt in the left faceoff circle.
The mishap was eerily reminiscent of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 when a shot by the Blues’ Brayden Schenn similarly rode up Big Z’s stick, nailed him in the mouth, and fractured his jaw. Chara this time only needed brief attention in the dressing room and was ready to go after the first intermission, his right cheek red and slightly swollen.
The Bruins forced the OT with Charlie McAvoy’s first goal of the season with only 57.3 seconds remaining in regulation. McAvoy, who earlier made a key assist on Boston’s second goal, scored with a forehander at the top of the crease after following his initial shot to the net. It was the Bruins 42nd shot of the night.
“I think [David Krejci] broke his stick,” said McAvoy, recalling the equalizer. “The puck kinda came to him and he wasn’t able to play it, so I tried to get around and shoot it, go far side, and then it turned into a scramble. I was lucky enough that it came back to me and tied the game up — exciting for our team, and good boost of morale to get a point out of that.”
The loss snapped the Bruins wining streak at four games. The two clubs meet back at the COA Monday night, the second of eight games the two sides will play against each other in the shortened 56-game season.
Down by three goals midway through the second, the Bruins kept chipping away and pulled to within a goal, 3-2, on Brad Marchand’s fifth of the season at 6:03 of the third.
McAvoy made the key play, gambling deep with the puck on a right wing pinch and passing out from behind the goal line, near the right post. Marchand collected a short dish from McAvoy and snapped it to the top left corner.
“Funny the way things work out, I was actually out of position there,” said Marchand, now tied with linemate Patrice Bergeron with identical scoring lines of 5-6—11. “He made a great play, drew everyone to him and I was kinda left all alone. But I wasn’t supposed to be there, so I got lucky.”
Nick Ritchie scored the first Boston goal, trimming the Caps lead to 3-1, when he scored on a power play, tipping in a Krejci blast from center point. Cassidy, as he hinted in the morning, rolled out a PP unit that featured five forwards.
Nicklas Backstrom potted the lone goal in the first, eluding Bergeron near the Caps’ offensive blue line and carrying toward the top of the right faceoff circle where he beat Rask with a clear drag-snap wrister at 18:06. It was only the seventh shot on net for the Capitals.
Former UNH backliner Trevor van Riemsdyk doubled the lead at 5:22 of the second on Washington’s next shot. After collecting a pass high in the zone, van Riemsdyk launched a wrister from near the right halfwall and no doubt was among the many to be surprised that it found the back of the net. Big Caps winger Tom Wilson and Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril set a screen down low as van Riemsdyk fired, Rask unable to follow the puck once it left van Riemsdyk’s blade.
The damage grew to 3-0 with 10:03 gone in the second when Wilson walked into a deflected Ovechkin attempt and snapped it in from the left faceoff circle. Rask again didn’t get a good look because this time Richard Panik was parked near the left point, poaching at the top of the crease.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.