As the backdoor man on the Bruins' five-on-three power-play formation, Marco Sturm approached the far post as if he were on tiptoes, careful not to make a peep and put the Washington penalty-killers on alert.
Sturm's subsequent outburst, however, was far from muted.
After taking a cross-crease feed from David Krejci and slamming the eventual game-winner past Bruins killer Cristobal Huet at 17:44 of the third period, Sturm raced into the corner and launched himself into the glass. For Sturm and the Bruins, the cannonball was as much catharsis as celebration, as Boston banished some evils and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory before 17,535 at TD Banknorth Garden yesterday afternoon.
"More than anything, it was a morale boost," said Shane Hnidy. "The sticks were tight and guys were squeezing. Maybe it will take something like that to put us over the top. The win's the most important thing for us right now to set us in the right direction."
The Bruins, shamed by a 10-2 showing at Washington last Monday and an 8-2 thumping against Toronto Thursday, had good intentions from the drop of the puck. Coach Claude Julien started the game with Milan Lucic, Petteri Nokelainen, and Shawn Thornton, hopeful that his fourth line would give his club the presence it required.
Lucic responded by delivering a beat-down to Matt Bradley five seconds into the match, then Thornton followed up nine ticks later by holding his ground against tough guy Donald Brashear.
The fights energized the Garden crowd but did nothing to lift the Bruins, who allowed Washington to record the game's first eight shots, including a goal by Brooks Laich at 6:17. It wasn't until 8:35 of the first period that Boston put its first shot on Huet, a long-distance floater by Marc Savard.
Instead, the Bruins were more interested in taking careless penalties: an interference call on Zdeno Chara (1:27) when the captain launched Alex Ovechkin's stick into the crowd, a hooking infraction on Peter Schaefer (4:52) that led to Laich's strike, and a high-sticking call on Bobby Allen (13:07).
"We had some stick incidents there that were unnecessary penalties in a lot of cases," said Julien. "You've got to find ways to stay out of the penalty box. That kind of took the momentum away from us, gave them the momentum, and they scored on the power play."
In the second period, Capitals forward Matt Cooke was booted at 4:06 when he was called for a knee-on-knee hit on Allen. The defenseman remained on the ice for several minutes, then was helped off by Hnidy and Nokelainen, and returned later in the period. He was diagnosed with a bruised knee.
"The trainers told me it's like a shot off the foot," said Allen (5:44 of ice time). "Everything goes pretty sore for a while. We did some tests back here when I got inside. We thought everything was OK to go back. Fortunate that it's just a pretty bad bruise. When I first got hit, I thought it was a lot worse."
The Bruins put seven shots on Huet during the five-minute power play, but the Washington goalie, previously undefeated against Boston this season, bricked up the net.
To make things worse, Chara left the game during the power play with what Julien termed an upper-torso injury sustained when he one-timed a shot. Chara, who also has been battling a hip injury, looked to be favoring his left side, and he didn't return for the rest of the period, although he came back for the start of the third. He will sit out today's game against the Rangers.
Washington's lack of discipline, however, continued in the third period. At 13:19, Brashear clipped Krejci with a high stick that opened a cut on the rookie's lip, good for a double minor. But Brashear was whistled for an extra two minutes (roughing) when he sucker-punched Hnidy, who had approached the widebody to voice his displeasure.
"He was coming at me and I guess I lost my cool a little bit," said Brashear. "It was an emotional game, a few hits here and there, but it wasn't worth it."
Brashear gave the Bruins a six-minute power play that was made even sweeter when defenseman John Erskine hooked down Hnidy at 14:32, setting up a two-minute five-on-three. Chara hammered a one-timer over Huet at 14:59 that tied the game at 1.
Then at 17:04, with Brashear still in the box, defenseman Tom Poti turned Glen Murray's stick into toothpicks with an ill-timed slash that put the Bruins on a two-man advantage yet again, setting up the Krejci-to-Sturm score.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com