WASHINGTON - Hockey can be a cruel game.
On Thursday, Martin St. Pierre and his fourth-line mates executed a breakout and an offensive rush to score the winning goal against the Islanders. Last night, after a pair of St. Pierre misplays, Washington sniper Alexander Semin hummed a slap shot past Tim Thomas for the deciding goal in the Capitals' 2-1 victory before 18,277 at the
"That's what it's all about," said St. Pierre. "It's all about ups and downs."
For most of last night's game, the undermanned Bruins - down three top-six forwards and a pair of top-four defensemen from their opening night roster - closed ranks, clogged shooting lanes, and gave the explosive Capitals a tight match.
But in the third period, an old friend turned into a nemesis. Milan Jurcina, literally traded away for nothing in 2006-07 - the conditional fourth-round pick the Bruins received went to Calgary when Brad Stuart didn't re-sign with the Flames - broke up St. Pierre's chance and sprang Semin.
"You don't get much out of the two-on-one late in the game and they come back and score the game-winning goal," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Doesn't take much to differentiate between winning and losing."
The game-changing play started when Shawn Thornton's forecheck forced Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz to cough up the puck, giving the Bruins an odd-man rush against Jurcina. Vladimir Sobotka gained control and dished it to St. Pierre on the left wing. In hindsight, St. Pierre should have let one rip on goalie Jose Theodore.
"I should have shot it right away," said St. Pierre. "Theodore's a small goalie. That's what every goal scorer probably would have done. He would have shot."
Instead, St. Pierre tried to curl around Jurcina and hit Sobotka back door. What St. Pierre didn't realize was the length of Jurcina's reach. As St. Pierre made his move, the 6-foot-4-inch Jurcina hit the deck, flashed out his stick, and poked the puck away.
Then St. Pierre compounded his error. He regained control and drifted back up the wall. He could have sent the puck back down the boards for Sobotka to start the cycle, but instead he tried to chip it off the boards for Mark Stuart. However, the chip handcuffed a flat-footed Stuart, freeing Semin to hurtle through the neutral zone.
As Thomas saw Semin charge toward him, he tried to make himself as big as possible.
"Semin is coming down that wing with speed, and I know he's got a really good shot," Thomas said. "You try to take the angle, butterfly, and take away everything, but he put it in a pretty good place."
That place was over Thomas's glove, planted there after Semin wound up and stepped into a slapper.
"Guy LaFleur-ish," Thomas called it. "There's not many times where a guy has that much time to wind up for a slap shot like that."
It was one of two high-level goals that Washington tucked behind Thomas (28 saves). In the second period, with Matt Lashoff in the box for holding, the Capitals went on their second power play of the night. It took only 17 seconds to make Lashoff pay.
Center Michael Nylander, stickhandling down the left wing, drew the penalty-killers toward him, then spotted defenseman Mike Green cutting toward the far post. Nylander whipped a pass through the four-man Boston box for Green, who bore down on Thomas. The Boston netminder read the play and squared himself toward Green.
Trouble is, Green is arguably the most highly skilled defenseman in the game.
"He hardly moves his hands," said Thomas. "Most guys bear down on a shot so you know the shot's going to come."
With a flash of his wrists, Green roofed it at 2:59, tying the game at 1.
"They're very skilled," Thomas said of the Capitals. "They get it up in a hurry."
At the other end, the tattered Boston attack (down Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Marco Sturm) couldn't get much going against Theodore (23 saves) besides a Marc Savard power-play goal in the second. One of their best chances came late in the third during a delayed elbowing call on defenseman John Erskine. Zdeno Chara blasted a one-timer from the point, but Theodore stuffed it at 18:19.
"Right now, we're missing a little bit of firepower," said Julien. "We're not as big of a threat offensively as we have been with all these injuries."
Late in the second, the Bruins got banged up even more when Ovechkin caught Dennis Wideman with a knee-on-knee hit (the Capitals star was called for a kneeing minor). Wideman (26:50 ice time) finished the match, but was clearly limited in the third period, when he didn't have as much power pushing off his left leg.
"We lose a pretty good player," said Julien. "We lost his efficiency because he didn't come back at necessarily 100 percent."