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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In Boston, The Capitals Leave No Doubt As To Who the Best Team in the NHL is at the Moment

Unlike the pitiful effort that they displayed in Friday's disgraceful 5-1 loss to Montreal in the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium, at least tonight at TD Garden the Bruins (20-14-4) showed some sense of pride. The problem was that they were facing the Capitals (29-7-3), who in case you have been living under a rock happen to be the top team in the league, so they came up short once again 3-2. Boston has lost five out of its last six games as they depart for a pivotal five-game road trip beginning on Friday (7, NESN) in New Jersey.

Joonas Kemppainen returned after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury but Adam McQuaid left early in the second period with what had to be a concussion after Zach Sill boarded him. There was no call on the play but McQuaid appeared to be knocked out after going face-first into the glass. That meant that the Bruins had to play with five defensemen for more than half of the contest. Don't forget that David Krejci remains out with his upper-body injury, Brad Marchand was out (2nd game of his 3-game suspension) and David Pastrnak is back from the World Juniors Championships but for now playing in Providence.

Spotting a 2-0 lead to the Capitals made things infinitely more tough for the goal-challenged Black and Gold. Andre Burakovsky one-timed a pretty cross-ice feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov at 15:01 of the first period. My man Aaron Ness had the second assist on Burakovsky's fourth goal of the season. Kuznetsov doubled Washington's lead at 12:40 of the second period with a power play strike. He walked right in and ripped a shot over Rask's shoulder. Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen assisted on Kuznetsov's 13th goal of the season.

Scoring two goals against Braden Holtby (25 saves) is a big accomplishment since he's been the best goaltender in the NHL. He is 17-0-2 in his last 19 decisions and if they had the vote right now, he would be a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy (MVP). Loui Eriksson got Boston on the board at 15:26, Brett Connolly and Patrice Bergeron assisted on his 14th goal of the season. When Marcus Johansson put in a loose puck at 10:41 of the third period for a 3-1 Washington lead, you knew that it was over. Dmitry Orlov's shot from the point hit the post and Nate Schmidt had the second assist on Johansson's 10th goal of the season. The Capitals have seven guys with 10+ goals this season, I doubt that any other club can top that.

After Washington's No. 2 power play came through, Boston's No. 1 power play made its presence felt too as Patrice Bergeron scored at 11:52 of the third to cut it to 3-2. Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug assisted on Bergeron's 15th goal of the season (tying him with Marchand for the team lead). Boston fell to 9-11-2 at home in 2015-16 while they are 11-3-2 on the road. They have to hope that bizarre road success carries over the next few weeks since after New Jersey, they'll be in Ottawa on Saturday (7, NESN) night. They are at the Rangers on Monday (7, NESN), at the Flyers on Wednesday (8, NBCSN) and wrap things up in Buffalo on Friday (7, NESN). Even in their current state of disarray, they should win at least two of those matchups. For what it's worth, if the playoffs started today Washington would face Boston. Scary stuff indeed.

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