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Saturday, March 5, 2016

In a Playoff-Like Game (for early March), Capitals Outlast Bruins 2-1 in Overtime on Niskanen's Goal

If we're being positive here (and tonight I feel like going that way), the Bruins (36-23-7) went toe-to-toe with the two best teams in the NHL the last few days on their home ice and earned three out of a possible four points against Chicago and Washington. Tonight at TD Garden, Boston scored first but lost in OT 2-1 to Washington (48-13-4) who in the process picked up their 100th point of the season. Underrated defenseman Matt Niskanen (who is having a great season) scored the game-winning goal at 2:36, his fifth goal of the season from Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johannson.

Yet again, the B's failed to reach the .500 mark at home (15-16-4) this season (something which they haven't done in 2015-16) and more worrisome, they lost defenseman Kevan Miller to what looked like a serious shoulder injury. He's had problems with his shoulders in recent years and he left early in the second period after Alex Ovechkin hit him from behind into the glass. Ovi was assessed a five-minute penalty for boarding while Brad Marchand picked up a two-minute roughing call for sticking up for his fallen teammate. It was a physical contest as Adam McQuaid and Tom Wilson (who leads the NHL in penalty minutes) fought in the first period.

Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead at 7:11 of the first as Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring for the second straight game. Miller corralled a loose puck at the blue line and kept it in Washington's defensive zone. From there, Lee Stempniak got a piece of the puck before Brad Marchand fired a sweet pass across the goal-line to Bergy for the tap-in (his 26th goal of the season).

The Capitals picked up the win primarily for two reasons: their backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer (33 saves) was fantastic and they survived a Bruins 5-on-3 for 1:50 in the second period. Washington tied it at one at 13:08: defenseman Karl Alzner re-directed in a pass from Nicklas Backstrom. Alzner's fourth goal of the season was also assisted by Ovechkin. Earlier in the frame, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug had apparently broke his 40-game (really!) goal-less streak but after a lengthy review, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz's challenge paid off: it was ruled no-goal.

Washington has now won its last six games against the Bruins including a season sweep (3-0) that also included a 4-1 win at home on November 5 and a 3-2 win here on January 5. That is something to keep in mind should they meet again in the playoffs. Tuukka Rask (28 saves) fell to 1-8-4 in his career against the Capitals while Washington didn't even have to call on the services of their star goaltender-Braden Holtby-who started last night in New York (a 3-2 Rangers win). Washington is the only NHL team to not lose consecutive games in regulation this season (12-0-1).

After a mostly successful four-game homestand (2-1-1), the B's head out for a back-to-back in the Sunshine State before they return to the Garden on Thursday to play Carolina (29-26-11). On Monday (7:30, NESN) they are at Florida (36-20-8) and on Tuesday (7:30, NESN), they are at Tampa Bay (39-22-4). Those two games could go a long way towards determining the Atlantic Division since the Lightning currently are up two points on the Panthers and three points on the Bruins (Boston has played one more game than both of them). If there is one thing to count on with the Bruins in this wacky campaign, they have been incredibly consistent on the road (21-7-3).

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