The Boston Bruins’ second line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton had been struggling of late. Unfortunately for the Washington Capitals, someone forgot to tell them that before they dropped the puck at the TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.
That same second line for the B’s went from drowsy to dominant in front of their home fans, as each member racked up three points in a comfortable 4-1 victory over the Caps. Backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 32 saves to get the win while Tukka Rask got a rest, and even the one goal Washington scored was a fluke.
Horton and Krejci both broke long goal droughts in the first period. Lucic swiped the puck from Troy Brouwer in the corner before finding Horton in the slot for a one-timer that beat Michal Neuvirth for his eighth goal of the season and first in nine games at 14:12.
Krejci scored a closer but similar goal three minutes later for his second tally in the last 10 games. This time Jack Hillen–making his first appearance for the Caps since opening night–was the victim, and Lucic fed Krejci for a bang-bang conversion to Neuvirth’s right.
Krecji gifted one back to the visitors 1:24 into the second period, when his defensive zone pass deflected into his own net off of teammate Johnny Boychuk. Marcus Johansson was credited with the goal, his second of 2013. But Andrew Ference added a goal before the second frame was finished, and Rich Peverly gave the Bruins even more insurance by scoring eight seconds into a third period power play, a goal that was also set up by Lucic.
Play got increasingly chippy in the second half of the game, a development that came as little surprise considering the Caps had won five out of their last six visits to Boston. Matt Hendricks dropped the gloves twice (once with Horton and once with Adam McQuaid), but the shocker was Mike Ribeiro picking up the first fighting major of his pro career, squaring off with Bruins’ leading goal scorer and noted agitator Brad Marchand.
Neuvirth made 33 stops on 33 shots while starting back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month. Aaron Volpatti played about half the game on Washington’s top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who also skated with Hendricks and Jason Chimera at various points.
The Capitals have now lost four of their last five, scoring only seven goals during that stretch. Now just 4-8-1 away from Verizon Center, their playoff hopes may be decided before the end of the month, as six of their eight remaining March games are on the road. A winnable home game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday now looms larger than ever.
The game was over when…
That second line imposed its will in the second period. It’s amazing how similar both of the first two goals were, with the Caps turning relatively routine plays in the corner into excellent chances for the Bruins. Yes, Lucic can bring the pain on the forecheck, but Brouwer and Hillen didn’t even make him work for those pucks.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
No one, really, but some credit goes to Ribeiro for losing his fighting virginity against a player everyone would like to shut up in Marchand. And Hendricks sort of got punked by Shawn Thornton before McQuaid decided to butt in, so he gets props too.