WASHINGTON — David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin were the headliners, but it was T.J. Oshie who stole the show here Wednesday night when the Bruins and Capitals, the NHL’s two best teams this season, went head to head at Capital One Arena.
Oshie, the Capitals’ 32-year-old right winger, typically overshadowed by slicker teammates Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and the Great Ovie, popped in a pair of second-period goals that paced the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Bruins.
Oshie’s first erased a 1-0 Bruins lead. His second, only 3:30 later, provided the Capitals with a 2-1 lead. And when Sean Kuraly and John Carlson traded strikes only 1:49 apart early in the third, the Capitals were left standing with two more points (51 total) atop the heap that is the Original 31.
The Bruins (20-6-6, 46 points) suffered their third straight loss in regulation and also lost for a fourth time in a row (0-3-1), extending their season-worst skid.
So, not good for the Black and Gold, but it was better than they have been of late — and the outcome might have been flipped had it not been for having a Patrice Bergeron goal, good for a 2-0 lead, wiped off the scoreboard yet again when a forensic replay review found Jake DeBrusk’s skate an itsy-bitsy bit over the blue line seconds before Bergeron struck at 15:35 of the first period.
Pastrnak (one goal) and Ovechkin (0-0—0 and not a single shot on net) were upstaged by Oshie, but it was the replay machine, in its lifeless and joyless splendor, that again forced its way onto the scoresheet and stole some of the night’s entertainment.
“Honestly, I had no idea until they started talking about it,” said Bergeron, denied what would have been his 10th goal. “I didn’t really get a good look at it. But with all the angles they have — and in Toronto, I am sure it’s the right call.”
“Yeah, it is,” added Bergeron. “Obviously, when you are on the opposite side of it, it feels nice . . . so, yeah, obviously this year it’s one of those, when you come up short every time, and it happens 20 seconds after the play, it’s tough to swallow. But it is the rule, and we have to live with it.”
“That’s the game nowadays, you know, it’s frustrating,” added teammate Brad Marchand, “especially when you play for so long after the [infraction] — there’s got to be something implemented where you are not playing for a minute and it doesn’t affect the play. Just frustrating when it goes against you, but it all evens out in the end.”
Overall, focusing on his club’s 60-minute performance, coach Bruce Cassidy was encouraged after what were significantly weaker efforts against Colorado and Ottawa.
“Listen, we’re all frustrated,” said Cassidy, first referencing the goal lost to video review. “But as a coach, you like how the 60 minutes transpired better than some of the other nights. We’re in the game. We’re right there. We very easily could have won the game. Two or three things probably changed that, but in terms of the 60-minute effort we are getting closer to where we want to be.”
■ Pastrnak and Ovechkin lined up nose to nose for the opening faceoff. Only 9:36 later, Pastrnak added to his advantage in the goal-scoring race, popping in a forehander at even-strength off a silken dish from Charlie McAvoy. The 12th time this season Pastrnak has opened the scoring for the Bruins. His league-leading 26th strike of the season. Ovehckin remained locked in at 21.
■ All of 36 seconds after Pastrnak’s goal, team captain Zdeno Chara (6 feet 9 inches) and Washington strongman Tom Wilson (6-4) traded wild punches, the skirmish initiated when Wilson stapled Chara with a crosscheck in the corner to Jaroslav Halak’s left. Each of the pugilists landed a couple of solid shots. More punch than the office Christmas party. Combined tale of the tape for the two monster mashers: 13 feet 1 inch and 470 pounds. Post game, Chara only acknowledged it was the crosscheck that drew his ire, but refused to comment.
■ Cheap play of the night: Jakub Vrana’s near slew foot of Torey Krug after the Boston defenseman unloaded a shot in the high slot. As Krug let go, Vrana used his right skate to take out Krug’s left boot. The call made against Vrana was tripping — but it was a dangerous and unnecessary cheap shot.
■ Retired Ex-Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, a recluse in recent years, was on the ice for the opening faceoff, the Capitals honoring the Yanks who will be inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame here on Thursday. Thomas was among four honorees to drop the ceremonial puck (along with ex-Bruin Brian Gionta). Thomas exchanged smiles, handshakes, and words with Chara, Bergeron, and Marchand before leaving the ice. Marchand: “He looks like he lost a little weight, so he’s looking good. Good to see him again.”
■ Marchand got stung on his first shift, a high stick by Backstrom catching him around his right ear. Obviously in some pain, Marchand made his way to the bench and shook off trainer Don Del Negro’s offer to help.
■ The Bruins outshot the Capitals, 23-11, from the 3:00 mark of the first until the end of the second. No extra points for shot lead.
■ Oshie’s second of the night came on a delayed call against McAvoy. Oshie blitzed by both McAvoy and Connor Clifton, closed to Halak’s front porch, and put it away for his 13th of the season.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.