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Holtby stifles Bruins and series is all even

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 20, 2012
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WASHINGTON - After Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Capitals at the Verizon Center, David Krejci slumped at his stall. Krejci, the Bruins’ most offensive-minded center, looked like someone who failed to put a single puck on goal.

“It [stinks],’’ Krejci said. “You try to stay positive. But it’s so hard, you know? We’ve got to be better at this area. We don’t have many days to practice. Every time we go out on the ice, we’ve got to make sure we shoot to score. It starts in practice. We’ve got to work on it.’’

The Bruins peppered Braden Holtby with 45 pucks. Only one slipped past the 22-year-old netminder. Holtby stopped the other 44, further defining himself as the primary reason the series is tied at two games apiece. Game 5 is Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

“You shoot 45 shots on net, you expect your team to have a little bit more than one goal,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “There’s obviously some areas we’re not happy with. A lot of them that we are. A few of them that we’re not. Those are the ones I feel cost us an opportunity to win.’’

The Bruins’ sticks have turned to overcooked spaghetti at the wrong time. The only goal came off the blade of Rich Peverley in the first period.

The sequence started with Tim Thomas foiling Brooks Laich. Washington’s No. 1 center had slipped free and put a backhander on goal. Thomas attacked Laich at the top of his crease and turned back the shot.

Later in the shift, Gregory Campbell hit Peverley with a long-distance pass, and John Erskine was the only Washington defenseman back. As Daniel Paille joined the rush and headed for the far post, Peverley snapped a short-distance shot that eluded Holtby, tying the game at 1.

No other pucks came close to slipping past Holtby. The netminder never buckled under Boston’s pressure.

When the Bruins had a 14-3 shot advantage in the first, Holtby kept his club in the match. In the second period, Holtby showed off a quick pad in turning back Tyler Seguin and an even swifter glove in snatching a Brian Rolston slap shot.

In the third, when the Capitals held a 2-1 lead, Holtby kept the net on lockdown. The two toughest shots Holtby faced came from the point with traffic in front. At 8:48, with Campbell and Paille setting up shop in front, Holtby got a bead on Zdeno Chara’s wrist shot and closed his glove on the puck. At 12:23, Joe Corvo put a shot on goal that angled through traffic. Holtby tracked Corvo’s shot and gobbled up the puck to keep his team’s advantage intact.

“I can usually tell when there are screens, and I can follow the puck the whole way,’’ Holtby said. “I think that’s usually when I can tell that I’m seeing the puck well.’’

As sharp as Holtby was, the Bruins didn’t make the goalie’s life as hard as it could have been. There were few situations when Holtby had to scramble to make a second stop after making a primary save. When Holtby left rebounds in front, his teammates were quick to swipe pucks out of danger areas.

When the Bruins are clicking on offense, they can apply wave after wave of forechecking heat. They’re willing to jam their sticks and bodies into the real estate where opponents are at their nastiest.

“He saw everything, that’s for sure,’’ Peverley said. “I can’t say there were too many shots he didn’t see.’’

For the fourth straight game, the Bruins didn’t get much presence from their top two lines. The top six forwards combined for 17 shots, including six off the stick of Seguin.

“It [stinks],’’ said Krejci. “It’s disappointing when you get that many chances and you come out short. It’s frustrating.’’

The blanks the Bruins shot through 40 minutes led to more changes. In the third period, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand switched lines. Marchand was reunited with Patrice Bergeron and Peverley. Lucic skated alongside Krejci and Seguin. The changes didn’t work.

The offensive no-show is why the Bruins couldn’t reward Tim Thomas (19 saves) on a night when he wasn’t at fault for either Washington goal. In the first period, after a collision between Andrew Ference and Alex Ovechkin in the neutral zone, Chara left his position to chase down the loose puck. Instead, Laich got to it first.

With Ference and Chara out of the play, Laich and Marcus Johansson pulled away for a two-on-one rush against Rolston. Johansson took Laich’s cross-ice pass and buried his shot at 1:22 of the first.

Late in the second, the Capitals pulled ahead with a power-play goal. Bergeron was called for an offensive-zone hooking call on Laich.

Bergeron doesn’t usually make noise, but he argued the call while being sent to the box.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,’’ Bergeron said. “I’m obviously not going to complain. It’s part of the game. We’ve got to move on and I’ve got to move on.’’

Alexander Semin made the Bruins pay. With Chara screening Thomas, Semin set up at the left circle and wired a top-shelf shot at 18:43, giving the Capitals a 2-1 lead.

That was all Holtby needed.

“We still believe that it’s coming,’’ Krejci said. “It’s 2-2, this series. We’re in it. Especially today, we had so many chances. We could have scored five goals easily. That’s a good sign. But we didn’t. It’s frustrating.’’

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

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