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Capitals 3, Bruins 2

Bruins denied in shootout

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By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 30, 2012
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It is but a formality that the Bruins will clinch a playoff spot before the April 7 regular-season finale against Buffalo. With just 1 more point, the Bruins will secure a top-eight position for the fifth time in five seasons.

But after recording just 1 point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals before 17,565 at TD Garden, the Bruins sure were hoping they could have turned the trick on Thursday night.

“If we would have beaten them, we would have clinched,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We’re still in the same boat we were in before the game.’’

In less than two minutes, the Bruins wiped out a two-goal, third-period deficit. David Krejci kicked off the rally by tipping a puck past Michal Neuvirth at 16:50. Andrew Ference followed Krejci’s strike with a goal of his own at 18:44 to tie the game at 2-2.

But the Capitals got the better of the Bruins in the shootout. Matt Hendricks, Alexander Semin, and Brooks Laich slipped pucks past Tim Thomas. Neuvirth, who relieved Tomas Vokoun (undisclosed injury) late in the first period, turned back Krejci and Rich Peverley to help his club gain the extra point.

“We battled through it and we came back,’’ Krejci said. “It’s too bad we didn’t get it done. Just try to take the positives out of it and move on.’’

While the Bruins weren’t satisfied with the shootout setback, the more significant setback involved one of their defensemen. Adam McQuaid, belted by Jason Chimera at 14:00 of the first period, banged the left side of his head into the end boards. McQuaid fell to the ice and remained on his left side for several minutes.

With help from Greg Zanon, McQuaid skated off, and didn’t return. McQuaid suffered a cut over his left eye. But as has become custom with such blasts, the concern is of a head injury.

“He wasn’t feeling quite right,’’ Julien said. “The doctors didn’t want to take a chance at sending him back. We’ll probably learn more the following day, find out a little bit more about it. For the obvious reasons - the medical staff deals with those kinds of things - the minute you don’t feel right, they pull you out. Hopefully, we’ll get good news [Friday].’’

Chimera was tossed for charging. Because McQuaid was injured, it’s possible Chimera could face supplemental discipline.

However, Julien noted that McQuaid turned before Chimera finished his check. McQuaid had tracked down a puck along the boards, and looked like he was attempting to reverse the puck when Chimera connected with his hit. Chimera played for Julien at Hamilton of the AHL.

“Maybe it was a little bit reckless,’’ Julien said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind it wasn’t intentional. McQuaid just turned at the last second and put himself in a bit of a vulnerable position. I agree with the referee’s call. It was a reckless hit. It deserved a five when I looked back at the replay. They had to make that decision. It was a tough one. But it certainly wasn’t an intent to injure by the player, in my mind. I keep saying, I really, really encourage our players to be careful with the speed of the game today to make sure they don’t turn their back to the play as much. Those kinds of plays happen. You’re worried about the security of the players.’’

With McQuaid out and Dennis Seidenberg unavailable, the Bruins had to lean on Zdeno Chara (29:30 of ice time), Ference (25:26), and Johnny Boychuk (24:23). The defensemen shrugged off the heavy workloads, as the Bruins limited the Capitals to nine shots through 40 minutes.

But Washington broke a scoreless tie in the third. Ex-Bruin Dennis Wideman found an opening in the slot and snapped a shot over Thomas at 7:59. Less than two minutes later, after a Milan Lucic pass in the offensive zone skittered off Ference’s stick, the Capitals scurried away for an odd-man rush. Marcus Johansson took a cross-ice pass from Alex Ovechkin and hummed a shot past Thomas at 9:54.

The Bruins responded with their first goal at 16:50. As Chara floated a shot on goal, Krejci gained body position on John Carlson in front of Neuvirth. Krejci tipped Chara’s shot past Neuvirth to make it 2-1.

At 18:44, the Bruins tied the score. Krejci anticipated Karl Alzner’s clearing pass along the wall and stepped in front of the puck. At the same time, Ference had rolled over the boards and skated into the offensive zone. Ference gathered Krejci’s pass and hit a slapper that caromed off Troy Brouwer and beat Neuvirth (19 saves), sending the game into overtime and the shootout.

“It was good to come back, for sure,’’ Ference said.

“It was somewhat of a playoff-type game as far as trying to generate stuff. They were obviously desperate to get points, and it showed. They did an extremely good job of getting in our lanes. They must have had a ton of blocked shots. Especially from the point, it was hard to find anything to shoot through. It was a tough game.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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