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  • What we learned: Bruins bounce back with gutsy win over Capitals

    Ryan Ames January 21, 2022

    The Boston Bruins didn’t make the same mistake two games in a row in their 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday at TD Garden.

    Two days after a disastrous first period against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins played much cleaner in the opening frame and continually improved as the game progressed to snatch their second consecutive victory over the Capitals.

    David Pastrnak turned in another gem with two more goals while Charlie McAvoy lit the lamp for the game-winner on the power play with under a minute left in regulation.

    “It was a big character win for us, coming off a tough game the other day,” Pastrnak said afterward. “It was a good opportunity for us to bounce back and that was our main focus. Obviously, Washington is a really good team, and we knew it was going to be a challenge.”

    Jake DeBrusk (goal, assist) and Erik Haula (two assists) joined Pastrnak on the multi-point list among Boston skaters. Linus Ullmark finished with 14 saves for his 14th win of the year.

    Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Niklas Backstrom each registered a goal for Washington.

    Here’s what we learned following Thursday’s thriller on Causeway St.

    Bruins lose a pair of forwards to injury

    Brad Marchand and Anton Blidh both left Thursday’s tilt with upper-body injuries. Blidh found himself on the wrong end of a booming hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson in the first period, while Marchand took a cheap hit from Garnet Hathaway in the corner during the second.

    Marchand tried to return but was in noticeable pain on the bench following Hathaway’s hit.

    “The [Marchand hit] I didn’t like at all,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The official was right there in front of it and didn’t call it. The trail official called it. I’m not sure why the guy watching it didn’t. [Hathaway] hit a guy in the numbers in a vulnerable spot — seen that from that player in the past too — so I didn’t like that one at all.”

    Both injuries allowed DeBrusk and Nick Foligno to spend some time on the top line with Bergeron and Craig Smith. DeBrusk, in particular, took advantage of his opportunity as he set up McAvoy for the go-ahead goal and also nearly scored on a breakaway earlier in the contest.

    “He was flying tonight, he was flying, he was all over the ice,” McAvoy said of DeBrusk. “I know he had one breakaway, but it really seemed like he was pushing the pace. When he has his legs he’s a dangerous player. He’s the fastest guy on the ice pretty much any given night.”

    Marchand leads the Bruins in points (43) and goals. Simply put, losing Marchand out for an extended time would provide a significant hit to Boston’s offense.

    Special teams shine once again


    The Bruins scored twice on the man-advantage and killed off all four Washington power plays in a game that easily could’ve looked much different had the Capitals converted on any of their chances.

    Washington received the game’s first three power plays but had nothing to show for it. Then with the score tied 1-1, the Bruins get their first shot up a man in the second period, and Pastrnak made Washington pay with a partial breakaway goal that beat Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek for his second goal of the night.

    A Smith tripping penalty later in the second provided Washington with its last power play attempt. Once again, even with the dynamic Alex Ovechkin, the Caps couldn’t solve Boston’s penalty kill.

    Nic Dowd’s trip on Derek Forbort with less than three minutes remaining set the scene for McAvoy’s snipe from the slot on Boston’s final opportunity with the man advantage.

    “I came right off the bench, did a little bit of a scissor with [Taylor] Hall there, great job by him to get going there,” McAvoy said. “He got up, made a good play to [Debrusk], a 2-on-1 at the blueline, then my momentum kind of took me up that lane. It was something we talked about before the game that might be open there, so it was a great play by [DeBrusk] to buy time, buy time and I had a feeling he was going to see me.”

    Following their timely special teams’ moments, the Bruins now sit eighth in the NHL on the power play with a 25 percent conversion rate and ninth on the penalty kill at 82.5 percent.

    Ullmark didn’t have his best in slow night

    Ullmark didn’t have the busiest night as Washington fired only 17 shots on net. However, the three goals he allowed weren’t exactly miraculous plays from the Capitals.

    Kuznetsov’s game-opening marker was more of a defensive breakdown as the Washington centerman walked right in from the near half-wall and roofed it past Ullmark just 4:07 in.

    The second goal was a bit of a broken play that saw Eller throw a seemingly harmless shot from the top of the faceoff dot that Ullmark missed. The puck looked to have bounced out of the Boston netminder’s glove and over his head, to tie things up at 2-2 in the second.

    Backstrom’s goal in the third came less than a minute after DeBrusk’s strike with Ullmark looking a tad late squaring up to the shot following a turnover from below the goal line.

    Again, the Capitals weren’t pelting Ullmark all night as Boston’s defense stepped up after the 7-1 debacle two nights prior. Just three Washington players managed more than one shot on goal.

    Yet, Ullmark extended his winning streak to seven straight in games and hasn’t lost once in the month of January. While it wasn’t the Swedish stopper’s sharpest outing, it was also far from his worst night.

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