WASHINGTON DC — It’s safe to say that it just the Boston Bruins fell a little flat against Braden Holtby and the rest of the Washington Capitals Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
Despite outshooting the Caps 45-21 in Game 4, the Black and Gold could not overcome Holtby (44 saves) and an opportunistic Washington squad that evened the best-of-seven series with a 2-1 victory.
The Caps certainly deserve credit for surviving a Bruins first period surge where they had a 14-3 shots on goal advantage. However, Boston had fewer quality chances and did not have the same net front presence as they did in Game 3.
That all needs to change for the Black and Gold as the series shifts to Boston for Game 5 Saturday afternoon.
“We had some chances, but it wasn’t good enough,” said forward Patrice Bergeron, who’s been held to one point in the first four contests. “We need to make sure to find ways to create some havoc but also find a way to create some rebounds. We are there around the net area a lot, but it’s not that we aren’t scoring but we just can’t find the loose pucks.”
For his part, Holtby was fighting through traffic and making the initial stop. While he did leave some juicy rebounds in the first two periods, the 22-year old netminder remained calm and saw the puck well as the game progressed.
“I can usually tell when there are screens and I can follow the puck the whole way,” he said. “I think that’s usually when I can tell that I am seeing the puck well. I felt pretty good tonight, but there was still some lucky times. In the second I felt pretty good, but there’s still some improvement.”
There was a reason for Holtby to feel good in that second period as the Caps started to create some offense. Late in the period, Alexander Semin threw a wrist shot past Tim Thomas (19 saves) during a Washington power play and delivered the game-winner at the 18:43 mark.
Afterwards, the Bruins lost their legs and couldn’t get enough traffic in front of Holtby, despite outshooting the Caps 13-3 in the final 20.
“He [Holtby] saw everything tonight, that’s for sure. I can’t say they’re too many shots that he didn’t see” said Bruins forward Rich Peverley, who scored the team’s only goal at 13:12 of the first period — his second of the postseason — to tie the game at 1-1. “He likes to glove the puck, he likes to hold on to it, so like I said, we’ve got to get more bodies in front of him.
“He’s a good goalie, he likes to catch everything so I think we just need to get more net presence. Most goalies in the league, if they see it, they can stop it and he’s another example.”
During that third period, head coach Claude Julien shifted his top two lines to try to find a spark.
That spark, obviously did not come, however.
“Shuffling lines is part of the game,” said Julien. “That’s all we did. We put some guys that played together [before] and when you have just one goal after two periods we try to do those things.”
With eight goals each through four games, both teams will look to create chances offensively.
For the Bruins, who have yet to score on the power play in 12 attempts, those quality chances are something they need to generate against Holtby and the stingy Caps defense.
“It’s about us finding ways to find the back of the net,” Bergeron said. “It’s not really about them right now, it’s about us.”