Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal early in the third period as the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins for the 14th consecutive time in a 4-2 win at TD Garden on Thursday. Braden Holtby made 39 saves for Washington (27-12-4), which has won three in a row.
Here are five reasons why the Caps beat the Bruins yet again:
1. Braden Holtby
On a night when the Capitals were being outshot 23-8 late in the second period, Holtby was the reason they were even in it. His combination pad save on a deflection by Jake DeBrusk and sliding poke check on a follow attempt by David Pastrnak on a penalty kill with 4:27 left in the first period is a good example.
Holtby finished with 39 saves on 41 Boston shots.
The Caps shook off a couple of Boston goals. That’s not an easy task on the road when the crowd gets going at TD Garden. The Bruins tied the game 1-1 at 14:11 of the second period, but Alex Ovechkin scored his 31st goal of the year 39 seconds later to put Washington back in front.
He later added a 32nd with an empty netter.
David Krejci’s power-play goal at 4:37 of the third period was answered by Backstrom just 1:09 later to make it 3-2. Backstrom has a point in 12 of the past 14 games against the Bruins, and the Caps are 22-0 when he has a point in a game this year.
Backstrom scored for the first time in 15 games.
3. Vrana on Fire
Jakub Vrana opened the scoring for Washington at 6:38 of the first period.
That’s his third goal in two games and 15th on the season. Every one from here on out is upping his career high. Vrana (15 goals, 10 assists) is two points away from tying last year’s 27. At age 22, he is coming into his own.
The Caps didn't put much on net against Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak (18 saves) the first two periods, but Vrana made no mistake when T.J. Oshie sprung him on a breakaway with a long stretch pass.
4. Penalty Kill
The Caps needed their penalty kill to come through given the combination of bad penalties and questionable calls from referee Francois St. Laurent and crew. Still not sure how Brett Connolly was the only one in the penalty box after he and Bruins defenseman Torey Krug wrestled in the corner. Lars Eller wanted to get back at Brad Marchand for their “fight” in the season opener. Instead, he took a bad penalty, and his teammates had to bail him out.
But in the third period, Washington was whistled for too many men on the ice, and David Krejci made them pay with a power-play goal. The penalty kill has improved lately, however, and by killing four of five on Thursday they earned the win.
Since Dec. 21, the Caps have killed 30 of 34.
5. Big Tom
On Ovechkin’s first goal, Caps forward Tom Wilson did much of the hard work. He chased a puck into the offensive zone and got there quick enough to ram into Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara. That jarred the puck into the opposite corner. When it came back to Wilson, he was ready and made a play with his back to the boards by finding Ovechkin out front.
He was a factor all over the ice away from the puck against the relentless, physical Bruins.
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