Third Time’s a Charm?: Washington Capitals vs Boston Bruins (R1; G4)

 Postseason RecordGoaltenderGAA / SV%
Washington Capitals1-0-2Ilya Samsonov2.12 / .930
Boston Bruins2-0-1Tuukka Rask1.41 / .946

The Washington Capitals are hoping to avoid taking a third straight loss to the Boston Bruins as they play Game 4 at TD Garden in the best-of-seven First Round series. Heading into Wednesday’s eventual win for the Bruins, Boston was 25-18 when tied after two games. Meanwhile, the Capitals were just 18-31 in Game 3’s when played on the road.

The Washington Capitals fell to the Boston Bruins in 2OT as Craig Smith potted the puck on an essentially-empty net due to a fatal miscommunication between goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defensemen Justin Schultz. There were many questions needing to be answered ahead of Wednesday’s 6:30pm start. Some included, would Lars Eller play after leaving Game 2 halfway through the 2nd period, but participated in morning skate? If not, would Evgeny Kuznetsov slide into the lineup on his birthday? Who would start in-goal for the Capitals? Kuznetsov did indeed play (1C) with TJ Oshie on his right, meaning Tom Wilson slid down to the 2RW spot, and Daniel Carr replaced Daniel Sprong on the third line. Ilya Samsonov got his first start since May 1st after yet another stint on the COVID-19 Absences list. Samsonov had played just 19 games all season with his most recent start resulting in a loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 1st. The change came as a surprise to many, as Craig Anderson was extraordinarily good in Game 1 and 2, having stopped 65 shots through the two games. Anderson was noted as taking a body maintenance day, so Samsonov ‘earned’ an opportunity to shine (deserved, or not).

The first period was full of penalties, power plays, and minimal 5-on-5 skating. Samsonov made a number of confidence-building quality stops early on to keep the Bruins off the board. But a bad turnover by Kuznetsov lead to a 2-on-2 that thankfully did not end up giving Boston a lead, thanks to net behind ‘Sammy’ being forced off its moorings. The Bruins got their first opportunity (of three) on the power play at the 2:20 mark as Alex Ovechkin was called for interference. Samsonov and the Capitals, notably TJ Oshie, successfully killed off the penalty to keep the score 0-0. Then, at the 7:38 mark, Mike Reilly went off for high-sticking, giving Washington their first chance to score with the man-advantage, but it was Boston that got a solid shorthanded opportunity. The Capitals were never able to actually get set up on their first try, but three minutes later, they would have another chance to score. Boston was called for a too-many-men bench minor, but the Caps failed to convert. The Bruins would earn back-to-back power plays including 55 seconds of 5-on-3 play as Zdeno Chara and John Carlson were sent to the box for slashing and delay of game. Thanks to Brenden Dillon and strong penalty killing, the Bruins were unable to convert even with the two-man advantage. The Caps would receive one more chance to score on the power play as Sean Kuraly went off for tripping at the 17:25 mark, but went 0-for-3 in the first. The Capitals had just one scoring chance in the first period compared to the Bruins seven, but the score remained 0-0 heading into the second.

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Early in the second, both the Caps and the Bruins had more quality scoring opportunities as on one end of the ice, Rask nearly juggled the puck off his back into the net behind him, and on the other, the puck almost squeaked through Samsonov’s pads. A shot from David Pastrnak hit Caps’ forward Nic Dowd in the knee around the seven-minute mark, sending Dowd down to the locker room. He would return shortly thereafter. At the 6:56 mark of the 2nd, Brad Marchand was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, sending the Caps to the power play, but again it was Boston that would have a shorthanded break towards the Caps’ net. Just prior to the expiration of the penalty, Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the playoffs to start the scoring. With Anthony Mantha recording the primary assist, Ovi’s goal gave the Caps a 1-0 lead.

But less than 60 seconds later, Taylor Hall would score his 2nd of the series to tie the game, after successfully cutting behind Washington’s defense and sneaking the puck far side above Samsonov.

Chasing the puck hard to the net, Garnet Hathaway incidentally skated into Boston’s Tuukka Rask, whom took exception to the play, and proceeded to throw punches. No penalties were called on the play. The Caps would give up another shorthanded opportunity to Marchand when at the 15:45 mark, Matt Grzelyck was called for high-sticking. With under two minutes remaining in the middle frame, Nic Dowd tallied to re-instate the Caps lead, which they would hold into the final frame.

Moments later, Conor Sheary almost made it 3-1, but the score remained.

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Much of the third period was played uneventfully, though the Bruins received two more power plays, including one at the 3:25 mark (Carr, tripping) and more than doubled Washington’s shots on goal. It was Nic Dowd’s high-sticking penalty at the 11-minute mark that complicated the Caps’ efforts to win Game 3. Thirty-two seconds into the Bruins power play, Brad Marchand scored to tie the game, once again, later in the final frame.

With the final five minutes of the period winding down, overtime seemed of course inevitable for a third straight game. Two shots from the Capitals came close but not close enough, as one rang off the post and another the crossbar. With the score tied at two goals apiece, Game 3 went to overtime.

The importance for both teams to taking a two-games-to-one series lead could not be overstated. For Washington, it was their 15th first round overtime game since 2017, the most in the NHL. Second most? The Columbus Blue Jackets with seven. Samsonov was forced to make a huge save early in the overtime period, but with neither team tallying in the first overtime, a second overtime period was needed.

The Caps aging roster exposed itself as they team looked exhausted as the first OT period ended and the second began. Unfortunately, a horrendous misplay of the puck behind the net courtesy of a miscommunication between Samsonov and Justin Schultz ended up with the Bruins taking Game 3 in overtime at the 5:48 mark as Craig Smith scored on a wraparound.

Tuukka Rask tallied the win, stopping 35 of 37 shots. Ilya Samsonov allowed three goals on 43 shots for a .930 save percentage.

Below is the official schedule vs. BOS (all times in EST):

Game 4: Friday May 21 @ 6:30pm

Game 5: Sunday May 23 @ 7:00pm

Game 6 *if necessary*: Tuesday May 25 @ TBD

Game 7 *if necessary*: Thursday May 27 @ TBD

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins will play Game 4 on Friday May 21st at 6:30 EST, and can be watched on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Washington.

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