After a black-and-blue bounce-back for the Black and Gold, the Bruins held their breath about Brad Marchand.
After losing their leading scorer, the Bruins lost a pair of leads, but beat the Capitals, 4-3, on Thursday night on a goal in the final minute.
Charlie McAvoy, who took a heavy shot off the outside of the leg a few shifts before, fired home a power-play winner with 45 seconds left. It washed away any remaining bitterness from the 7-1 pounding the Bruins took from the Hurricanes on Tuesday.
“I was pleased, start to finish,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We dug in, played hard. I thought we were the better team.”
But he had no update on Marchand, who was in pain and icing his right shoulder after taking a penalized hit from Garnet Hathaway in the second period. Boston’s leading scorer (20-23–43 in 32 games) tried to come back but was laboring. He left for good after one puck battle in the corner, logging 8:54 in total.
“Didn’t like [it] at all,” Cassidy said of Hathaway’s interference minor. “Hit a guy in the numbers in a vulnerable spot. Seen that from that player in the past, too.”
Jake DeBrusk, who has a standing trade request with general manager Don Sweeney, made the most of his time filling in for Marchand on the No. 1 line.
He set up McAvoy’s winner with patience, holding the puck as he cruised down the left wing. He slipped a feed to his pinching defenseman in the slot. McAvoy waited until he had a lane and ripped a snapper past Vitek Vanecek’s blocker.
DeBrusk also got credit for a goal in the third period, his centering feed from the left deflecting in off Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov (rather than a net-driving Patrice Bergeron, who was originally given credit for the strike).
“He was flying tonight,” McAvoy said of DeBrusk, who also had a breakaway bid and finished 1-1–2 with four shots in 15:55. “When he has his legs, he’s a very dangerous player. He’s the fastest guy on the ice pretty much any given night … We’re always cheering for him. When he pulls the rope, we’re a much better team.”
The Capitals (22-10-9) tied it 36 seconds after DeBrusk’s throw-it-on-net goal, Nicklas Backstrom zipping home a Tom Wilson pass off a Brandon Carlo turnover in the defensive zone.
But McAvoy’s goal gave the Bruins (23-12-2) their ninth win in their last 11 games since Jan. 1.
It was another stat-stuffing night for the No. 1 defenseman, who logged 24:35, blocked four shots, and laid out Trevor van Riemsdyk while forechecking.
“He’s become that kind of player,” David Pastrnak said. “He gets himself in the game. No matter if he has it that night or he doesn’t, he finds it at some point.”
Few Bruins have been hotter in this recent run than Pastrnak, who scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season, at 4:57 of the first and 8:37 of the second.
The second came on the penalty to Marchand, who couldn’t raise his arm to celebrate the goal.
On the bench he was doubled over at times. He touched the front of his right shoulder. He winced. He held an ice bag under his shoulder pad. On ESPN, commentator Mark Messier, a Hall of Fame former player, speculated Marchand could miss several weeks if the injury was what he suspected it was. He didn’t go further than that.
The Bruins also lost Anton Blidh to a clean Wilson thump in the first period, and played most of the latter half of the game with 10 forwards.
Coming off Tuesday’s no-show against the Hurricanes, the Bruins went down, 1-0, at 4:07 of the first. Defending at the front of the net, Derek Forbort didn’t challenge Kuznetsov, who walked in from the left circle and whistled a short-side shot past the ear of Linus Ullmark. No winger had Kuznetsov marked, either.
Fifty seconds later, Pastrnak had the first of his pair. He finished a two-on-three rush with Taylor Hall by driving to the net and getting open. Hall drew both Capitals defensemen, then shipped a brilliant feed through.
Pastrnak staked the Bruins to their first lead, at 2-1, by sneaking away and finishing a long-distance outlet from Matt Grzelcyk on the breakaway.
It was Pastrnak’s 10th goal in 10 games, the most since Jan. 1. He now has 10-4–14 since Cassidy’s top-six shakeup.
Ullmark was not sharp, allowing three goals on 17 shots. The Capitals tied it at 2 at 16:12 of the third when Ullmark was unable to squeeze his trapper on a straightaway Lars Eller wrister from the circle.
The Bruins were good in front of him. They denied the Capitals chances all game, blocking as many shots (17) as they allowed. They also went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, with as many shorthanded shots (two) as they allowed. All six shot attempts they gave up happened on their first penalty kill of the game.
“Today was a big character win for us,” Pastrnak said. “Get back to work, get back to a winning streak.”