For the second time in a week, the Bruins lost every battle on the ice, and Saturday, the fans let them have it.
The TD Garden boo birds chirped early and crowed late as they watched the Capitals run roughshod over their team en route to a 3-0 victory.
Similar to the 4-1 loss to the Flames Tuesday, the Bruins effort was lacking when it came to challenging for loose pucks and battling physically during this matinee malaise.
“I don’t have answers. If I did, I would’ve given them to them, but it’s not acceptable and we’re not going to accept it,” said a somber Jim Montgomery. “We will change or things will change. We’re going to have to look at everything, but it just comes down to if there’s a puck between you and I, I want to break your leg to get it. And we don’t have that right now in two of the last three games. That’s what it boils down to and it’s not acceptable and we were just bad.”
It was evident from the opening ticks that the Bruins didn’t have their legs or the compete level needed.
If not for the sterling work of All-Star Jeremy Swayman, who made 15 saves to keep the game scoreless after the first period, it may have been 4-0 after 20 minutes.
By contrast, the Bruins landed just 18 shots total on Washington’s Charlie Lindgren, who earned his third — and perhaps easiest — shutout of the season.
Boston had trouble connecting on passes, keeping the puck on their sticks, and matching Washington’s energy level.
“Whether you’re fighting the puck or it’s just not going your way, you’re not getting bounces, you got to work for it,” said Charlie Coyle. “It’s one thing if you’re not getting bounces, but you can’t just mosey through a game and expect to get bounces. That’s not how it works. You’re not going to win many — if any — games like that. So, if we start to see that and things start to slip, it’s up to us to address it and it’s not just one guy, everyone’s got to pick it up.”
Slow starts, often a bugaboo for the Bruins this season, came back to haunt them again.
Swayman made 10-bell saves against Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson to keep things interesting.
The teams went into the first break scoreless, though the Bruins did suffer a big loss when Matt Grzelcyk was hit with a five-minute major for spearing Capitals winger Max Pacioretty in a most sensitive area.
In addition, Grzelcyk was hit with a game misconduct, forcing Montgomery to roll out just five defensemen for the final 41:47.
“We weren’t good before he got kicked out of the game,” said Montgomery, refusing to use losing one of his blue liners as an excuse.
The Grzelcyk infraction came at 18:13, just seconds after Pacioretty hit the Bruin defenseman from behind along the boards behind the Boston net.
Grzelcyk exacted his pound of flesh as Pacioretty tried to set up shop in front of Swayman.
Boston killed off the first 1:47 of the penalty, but the Capitals cashed in on the back end when the second period opened.
After Ovechkin snapped Brandon Carlo’s stick on one of his patented, wicked one-timers, the towering Bruins defenseman decked Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie only to have the duo get some sweet revenge.
Pacioretty snagged the puck and hit Oshie out front, and the veteran sniper sent a low wrister past Swayman for the 1-0 lead.
It was all the Capitals would need to improve to 23-20-7 while dropping the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins to 32-11-9.
Surprisingly, Boston was still in it after 40 minutes, but Dylan Strome’s goal (set up by Ovechkin) and an historical Ovechkin empty-netter sealed it.
The Russian superstar has 57 empty-net goals, breaking a tie for most all-time with Wayne Gretzky. Ovechkin has 834 goals, 60 behind Gretzky for the most in NHL history.
Those facts were of little consolation to the Garden denizens, who were boisterous in their disapproval at the final siren.
“You don’t love it,” Brandon Carlo said of hearing the boos. “I have so much respect for this organization, for that spoked-B; we all do in this room and I think the culture that’s been established here in years past, especially since I’ve been here, you come to work every single day and I love the fact that the fans and this organization hold us accountable when we don’t come to work to play to be at our best. That’s what you want from a fan base, and you can’t imagine a better fan base to win in front of. So, I respect it obviously, but something that I don’t want to hear because that means we’re not doing our job as well.”