Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals had a big fight feel.
The Bruins entered as the heavily favored heavyweights, capable of wearing down their opponents with several strong shots. Yet, it was the plucky Caps that landed the first blow when Mike Green knocked Brad Marchand to the ice less than one minute into the bout. Boston responded with several shots of their own – four, to be exact – before Washington could connect on Tim Thomas. The Caps may have drawn first blood when Jay Beagle cut David Krejci with a high-stick, but with a four-minute penalty kill to contend with along with the glass-rattling hits that the Bruins were administering, they covered up and held on for dear life before the horn sounded and both teams were forcibly sent to their respective corners.
Washington’s sense of desperation carried into the second period. The Bruins toyed with the Caps, pushing them around and backing them into a corner. The Caps desperately tried to fend them off, but only hurt themselves further in doing so; Krejci and John Carlson earned matching roughing minors after the latter came to the aid of Braden Holtby, who earned a roughing minor himself for taking a jab at Chris Kelly soon after. Boston won the second period decisively, connecting on 17 shots to Washington’s two, most of which came during a flurry of nearly seven minutes of power play time. Teetering on the ropes, the Caps were just lucky to survive.
The third period told a different story. The Caps came out firing and stole momentum away from the surging Bruins. It almost seemed like Washington was using a “rope-a-dope” strategy, allowing Boston to wear itself out before counterattacking by using the latter’s mistakes against it. The Bruins eventually recovered, leading to a all-out slugfest in the waning minutes of the period, one that ultimately ended without a clear victor.
Neither physically nor mentally fresh, the staggering Bruins and Caps both entered overtime looking to land just one decisive punch. Unfortunately for Washington, it was Kelly who caught Holtby up high for the knockout blow in Boston’s 1-0 victory Thursday.
A valiant effort in defeat Thursday left the Caps’ locker room disappointed, yet confident. They realize that while they may have been knocked down, they are certainly not out.
“We couldn’t win the series tonight,” Brooks Laich said. “It’s gonna be a long series.”
“They won this game, but we look forward to our game on Saturday,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure.”