Tuukka Rask sets Bruins record in shutout win over Capitals
WASHINGTON — They were smoked their last time here, and so close on so many other occasions against the Capitals, but the Bruins salted it away on Super Bowl Sunday.
One was enough for the Bruins, who ended five-plus years of misery against the Capitals thanks to one second-period goal by David Krejci, air-tight team defense, and exemplary work from Tuukka Rask, who became the winningest goalie in Bruins history (253 wins) by pitching a shutout.
Boston’s 1-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions zeroed a 14-game losing streak against that franchise (0-11-3), and gave its starting netminder the result he deserved.
Rask, who is 7-0-2 in his last 10 starts, stopped 24 Washington attempts, garnering his — and his team’s — first win over the Capitals since March 29, 2014.
“I thought he was terrific,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I thought we were clean in front of him. We didn’t have to rely on him all night. We did in the third in stretches. They had a good push, but he responded. We responded.”
The Bruins (28-17-7), who lost their way defensively of late, gave “our best effort,” captain Zdeno Chara said. They needed it.
They were outscored, 11-2, in their previous two games, including the 7-0 debacle in D.C. four months before, as the Capitals raised their Cup banner and blew the roof off the place.
“Playing a really good offensive team and limiting them to nothing is something we can rally around,” said defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who played a team-high 24 minutes 38 seconds and closed nearly all of the final four minutes with partner Zdeno Chara. “This might be a win that gets us going and trending in the right direction.”
Rask, yanked after five goals on 19 shots on Oct. 3, played more than double the minutes on Sunday — he went the full 60 — and was solid, sharp, and square. At times he was a stone-cold shot-killer, notably gloving a Travis Boyd point-blank chance with 8:44 left.
“We don’t get that result without Tuuks,” McAvoy said. “He played a monster game.”
The Bruins had sticks in lanes in front of Rask, deflected passes and shots, and played with close gaps that had frustrated fans at Capital One Arena shouting at their club to shoot the puck. The visitors didn’t make it easy. They were credited with 15 blocked shots, seemingly all of them timely.
“That’s our style of play,” Rask said. “Sometimes you win by winning, 1-0, sometimes it’s a high-scoring game. I think all over the ice we were on the puck, and didn’t give them a lot of time.”
With the Capitals pushing hard in the third, McAvoy hooked T.J. Oshie with 7:30 left, but Oshie’s hook on McAvoy’s partner, Chara, negated the power play.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby (38 saves) went to the bench with 1:28 left, and McAvoy and Chara — both of whom were among a group of defenders chastised by coach Bruce Cassidy for lax defending — closed it out.
They were on the ice for 3:49 of the final four minutes. McAvoy, who dropped Capitals agitator Tom Wilson behind the net in the final 30 seconds, blocked three shots. Chara blocked one. They combined for nine in total.
Cassidy made it clear after Thursday’s sloppy 3-2 loss to the Flyers that his defense was on a downward trend. In his postgame press conference he named Chara, McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Kevan Miller as key defensive blueliners who had lost their focus. In private, he said the same thing.
“Z took it to heart,” Cassidy told the Globe. “He’s our leader. I don’t want to say I called him out — you can say that — but I let them know what we needed, and they responded well.”
The Bruins, who were on a five-game winning streak when they lost to Washington on Jan. 10 at TD Garden, this time used the Capitals to shake their struggles, play a tighter game, and, perhaps, regain their swagger entering Tuesday’s home game against the New York Islanders.
“It definitely gives us a little bit of confidence if we were to match up with them down the road,” Krug said. “We’ve played a lot of good games against them, just haven’t been getting the results.”
As they did in each of their previous six games (record: 1-2-3), the Bruins scored first. Krug, who has an assist in each of his three previous games, went against the grain to David Krejci, who got enough of a one-timer to beat the right pad of Holtby as he stretched post-to-post.
Krejci’s 11th goal of the year came in a second period in which the Bruins dominated. Shots in the frame were 10-2, Boston, before Krug took David Pastrnak’s cutback pass on the off-wing, sold the shot, and contorted his body to connect cross-seam with Krejci at 10:43.
Few players in the league make that pass as well as he does, but Krug’s defending was on-point.
“He was really, really strong on the puck,” Cassidy said. “Won some puck battles and put out some fires to get us out of our zone.”
The Capitals have been out of sorts lately, having won one of their previous eight games (1-5-2). On Sunday, they mustered 13 shots through two periods. The Bruins peppered Holtby with 30 in the opening 40 minutes.
Incidentally, the NHL’s longest winning streak against a single opponent now belongs to . . . the Bruins, 14-0-0 against Arizona, a streak that began Oct. 10, 2010 in Prague.
“Just one of those things that happen in sports,” mused Rask. “You get on these streaks, either winning or losing. At some point they’ve got to snap.”