Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres stripped the Washington Capitals of their destiny, leaving them essentially powerless. No longer could they rely on themselves, instead having to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Thursday in Boston, it seemed like the Caps had to contend with another existential phenomenon: karma. For once, however, it seemed to be on Washington’s side. After Jason Chimera was ejected from the game for charging Adam McQuaid and Tomas Vokoun randomly reaggravated his strained groin muscle, it only seemed right that the hockey gods that head coach Dale Hunter occasionally invokes would turn the tide in the Caps’ favor.
Midway through the third period, it felt like those deities had finally done just that for the Caps when Dennis Wideman and Marcus Johansson scored within 1:55 to give the visitors a 2-0 lead, but as fast as that lead came, it left when the Bruins responded with two of their own in a similar 1:54 to send the game into overtime. Fate can be a cruel mistress.
Yet, in the ensuing shootout, with the Bruins up by one goal and the Caps needing one to save their season, Alexander Semin kept them breathing before Brooks Laich sealed the 3-2 shootout victory. For once, Washington’s prayers were answered.
The Caps may have squandered the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs on their own merits, but at the point Thursday where it seemed that hope would otherwise become hopelessness, it became faith.
And that might be just as important.