WASHINGTON — Early Saturday morning, the Capitals had taken the ice at their practice facility. It was a punishment, an offday canceled, a wake-up call issued. They had lost their last two games, and had gone 4-6-0 in their last 10. Plus the Bruins — battling the Capitals for the first wild-card spot in the East — were coming to town Sunday.
So it should not have been a surprise that the Capitals came out in overwhelming fashion at the start of Sunday night’s game, lashing through the Bruins’ defense, peppering Tuukka Rask. They seemed to possess the puck every second of the first five minutes, as they built a 10-1 shot advantage, broken finally at 5:20 by a Matt Bartkowski try on Braden Holtby.
“Don’t know if we were ready for that or not, but they definitely came out hard,” Rask said. The Bruins survived the onslaught. But it caught up to them, eventually, even though their game turned up as the night wore on.
Still, it was a 2-0 loss at the end of the night for the Bruins, ending their five-game winning streak and extending Holtby’s shutout run vs. them to 126:43. The Bruins also fell 2 points behind Washington, though they have a game in hand.
“With what they went through [Saturday], I think the message was clear to them they had to come out harder,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Probably weathered the storm, probably not as good as we wanted to, but they got that power-play goal. When you play with the lead it’s a lot easier.”
The Bruins had done just that in each of their last 11 games, scoring first in every game. But they wouldn’t against the Capitals, allowing that power-play goal — eventually the winner — at 12:43 of the first.
Things started 21 seconds earlier, when Tom Wilson laid out Ryan Spooner with an open-ice hit.
Brad Marchand didn’t like it. So, with Wilson crashing Rask and the net, Marchand got in a few punches. He was assessed a roughing minor and, 16 seconds into the ensuing penalty, John Carlson and the Capitals’ second-ranked power play made him pay with a shot from the point.
“I think so,” Marchand said, when asked if he had to respond to the Wilson hit. “If I had to do it again, I would do the same thing. We want to show that we’ll stick up for each other in this room. I know if that was me that got hit there, there would have been a guy stepping up. So, got to return the favor sometimes.”
The Bruins kept it to one goal through the end of the period, through the first half of the second, withstanding every push by the Capitals, and getting in a few good shifts of their own in the offensive zone.
Washington extended its lead on a bad bounce at 13:37 of the second.
After a blocked shot, the puck bounced out to Nate Schmidt, who put it on net. Unfortunately for the Bruins, it deflected off Gregory Campbell in front, beating Rask (36 saves), who moved to 0-4-2 in the second game of back-to-backs in which he has started both ends.
“The second goal kind of hurt us a lot,” Julien said of Schmidt’s first of the season. “The puck’s going wide and hits Campbell and deflects in. They got a break on that.”
And the Bruins couldn’t beat Holtby, who earned his eighth shutout of the season, even though Julien pulled Rask for the extra attacker with two minutes to play in the game.
“Another shutout for him,” Rask said. “It’s tough to win when you can’t score on these guys.”
“It’s funny how it goes, with [Montreal’s Carey] Price and him against us, they seem to if not shut us down, then let in one goal max.
They had a golden opportunity after a Karl Alzner tripping penalty at 13:47 of the third, with Loui Eriksson and the puck in the crease and a wide-open net. But Eriksson couldn’t quite get his stick on the puck.
It was the Bruins’ sixth game in nine days. But that wasn’t the issue, they said, not willing to use it as an excuse.
Nor does the schedule let up, with games Tuesday and Thursday, and another back-to-back next weekend in Florida.
“I thought we had a decent game for a back-to-back and the amount of games we’ve played lately, but I was disappointed we gave up those two points,” Marchand said. “We’ll just have to regroup for Tuesday.”