WASHINGTON D.C. — They might not have had the net-front presence on Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby through the first two games, but in Game 3 the Boston Bruins made the 22-year old rookie’s life a little more difficult in their 4-3 victory Monday night at the Verizon Center.
While the Black and Gold only fired 29 shots on Holtby, the majority of them were efficient enough to draw attention to the front of the net. Two of the goals in particular, Daniel Paille’s (at 9:38 of the second to tie things at 2-2) and Brian Rolston’s (1:02 into the third), were in front of the paint as the Bruins seemed to find a seam in the Caps defense.
“We felt we won a lot more battles today,” said Paille, who was the recipient of the chain for his performance. “That’s how we have to play, especially against a team like that, who’s changed their way a little bit from the past.”
“There’s not a whole lot of pretty goals out there,” Rolston said. “Everybody’s in front, everybody’s in front of the net. You just have to throw pucks in front of the net and try to get rebounds and things like that.”
In a couple of instances, the Bruins could have been a little too physical. Case in point was Milan Lucic’s roughing penalty at 17:34 during a Boston power play that has still not tallied a single goal in 11 attempts — a sight reminiscent of last year’s postseason where they had gone 0-for-31 on the man advantage without scoring a goal.
However, the Bruins battled through and came through in the clutch on Zdeno Chara’s game-winner with 1:53 left in regulation.
“It’s not a secret. It’s basically what everybody tries to do, especially in the playoffs,” Chara said on getting pucks to the net. “Just put as many shots in the net as possible and usually good things happen. We got a few bounces and that’s obviously part of the playoffs.”
Through the first two games, the Caps blocked several shots and helped ease Holtby’s load a little bit after facing 74 shots in that span. Monday the Caps blocked 15 shots, not as many as the first two.
Still, the Bruins know that Washington is more than capable of getting bodies in front of Holtby and stop the puck in its tracks.
“We’ve had guys in front last game too,” noted Shawn Thornton, a plus-1 on the night. “They do a really good job at blocking shots and pushing guys out. And I think that was the problem the first couple of games where even if we had people in front, there’s maybe too much traffic [because] pucks weren’t getting through. They do a really good job at clogging that up. It’s not an easy team to play against.”
If there’s an indication of Monday’s events from Game 3 then the two teams could indeed be in for a grind the rest of the series.
“It was a great team effort, everybody battled hard,” said Chara. “It was a very big game for us, we wanted to have a good game and that’s what we accomplished. It’s just a grind [during the playoffs]. [The Caps] played so hard, so we’ve just to keep working hard and keep battling.”