Bruins

Bruins-Capitals Game 3 observations: B's OT dominance, Smith excels

Bruins

BOSTON -- The Bruins are halfway to reaching the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs after beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 3 of their first-round series Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Overtime was required for the third consecutive game, and Craig Smith played the role of hero for the B's with a goal 5:48 into the second extra period.

"I don't think it's going to change. I think it's going to be close games and you've got to be comfortable playing in them," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. "Players have to know that little things matter, the details, and we've got to keep sticking to ours."

Here are four observations from Game 3.

1) Craig Smith keeps proving his worth

One of the best free-agent signings of the offseason was the Bruins acquiring Craig Smith on a three-year deal worth $9.3 million. Smith has provided the B's with much-needed scoring depth and versatility in his first season with Boston, and he was one of the team's best players in Game 3.

Taylor Hall's highlight-reel goal wouldn't have been possible without a nice feed from Smith, who had the presence of mind to flip a backhand pass to his linemate driving toward the net.

Smith scored a goal of his own in double overtime. He took advantage of a miscommunication between Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz and buried the scoring chance.

 

Smith has generated plenty of looks in the offensive zone this series. He's tallied 17 shot attempts, eight shots, 11 scoring chances, eight high-danger chances and three points (one goal, two assists) through three games.

The veteran winger also has developed excellent chemistry on the second line alongside Hall and David Krejci since the April 12 trade deadline, and this trio outplaying its Washington counterparts over the last two games has been a huge factor for the Bruins.

2) Bruins dominated overtime

It would have been extra tough for the Bruins if they had lost Wednesday night. Not just because a loss would've put them in a 2-1 series hole, but because they were by far the better team in the 25:48 of bonus hockey.

The Bruins had a 30-17 edge in shot attempts, a 19-8 lead in shots on net, a 19-4 advantage in scoring chances and a 6-1 margin in high-danger chances during the overtime periods.

The Capitals looked tired and were losing a lot of races to pucks after 60 minutes, and the Bruins took full advantage with a strong effort.

3) A special teams party

The referees were busy in Game 3, with each team having five power plays.

The Capitals have one of the most dangerous power plays in the league, and their unit ranked No. 3 in the league during the regular season with a 24.8 percent success rate. The Caps power play has been decent in this series -- two goals on 10 opportunities through three games -- but if you keep giving it chances, the goals will eventually come.

After three strong penalty kills in the first period, Brad Marchand took his third penalty of the series and Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin scored on the ensuing Washington power play. Sure, the call on Marchand was a little weak, but after six penalties were called in the opening period, you have to realize the referees are calling the game tight and play accordingly.

The Capitals tallied more goals, shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances against the Bruins penalty kill than any other East Division team during the regular season. Giving this unit five opportunities in a single game is a recipe for disaster.

The Bruins power play was struggling mightily until a third-period opportunity that saw Brad Marchand cash in with his second goal of the series. 

Before that goal, Boston's power play was having immense trouble scoring. Too much passing, not enough shooting and a lack of clean zone entries were among the issues. The B's also missed a huge chance in the first period with 55 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage.

Boston is just 2-for-11 on the power play in the series, and one of those tallies came on a fortunate bounce that barely crossed the goal line in Game 1.

The Bruins are the better 5-on-5 team, but if each team is going to average three or more power plays per game, Boston's special teams need to be better. A series where special teams is a major factor favors Washington. The Capitals are one of the two teams in the playoffs (Hurricanes are the other) that finished the regular season with a top five power play and penalty kill.

 

4) Sloppy puck management nearly cost B's

The Capitals have a lot of skill, and if you don't take care of puck they will make you pay. And Washington did just that on its first two goals.

Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy lost control of the puck and his balance on a second-period penalty kill and the Capitals were able to find Ovechkin for a Grade A scoring chance that he buried.

After Taylor Hall tied the score with an amazing goal, the Capitals quickly regained the lead thanks to more puck mismanagement by the Bruins. 

David Pastrnak took a pass from Charlie Coyle and fumbled it. The Capitals took possession and Nic Dowd scored in front on a tip for his second goal of the series.

Coyle's pass wasn't great, but Pastrnak has to at least handle the puck better or tip it out of the zone. Your own blue line is a bad area to cough up the puck.

The Bruins also started the third period with sloppy passing, and T.J. Oshie nearly put the Capitals up 3-1 in the first five minutes but rang a shot off the post. 

This area of Boston's game must get cleaned up ASAP.