Getting shots and traffic on Braden Holtby? Check. Finding a way to beat Holtby? Check. Playing a heavy and physical game against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals? Check.
The Bruins checked off several topics on their to-do list against the defending Stanley Cup champs, but still couldn’t prevent a frustrating 4-2 loss on Thursday night.
“I thought we certainly gave ourselves a chance to win the game. It didn’t happen, again, against this team, so we have to get over that hurdle,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said after seeing his team outshoot Washington, 41-22. “A lot of nights it would’ve been good enough for points, if not two points, but not tonight.”
Here is what we learned from Washington’s 14th straight win over Boston.
The Caps had quick answers
— Hockey Daily (@HockeyDaily365) January 11, 2019
The Bruins’ effort resembled what we’ve seen during the season-long five-game win streak they brought into Thursday. They were strong on pucks, aggressive in the attacking end and developed enough layers in the defending end in front of Jaroslav Halak.
Ryan Donato and David Krejci each tied things up with their second- and third-period tallies respectively, but the Caps quickly answered both.
Ovechkin found enough space in the slot for his 31st of the season — and his first of two on the night — just 39 seconds after Donato’s sixth of the year. Nicklas Backstrom tallied his 11th on a game-winning marker 1:09 after Krejci’s eighth of the year.
“I gotta make the save on the third goal,” Halak, the former Capitals goalie, said. “That’s the bottom line. I got to be a better goalie and they got a win, so I’ve got to be better.”
Indeed. The journeyman has cooled off since his hot start to the season as Tuukka Rask marches on to his best stretch of the 2018-19 campaign.
Brad Marchand and Lars Eller renewed acquaintances
Lars Eller really wants to go with Brad Marchand but instead all he gets is a penalty pic.twitter.com/uqg3dd5Fs2
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 11, 2019
The opening-night blowout in D.C. was well out of reach when Lars Eller made it 7-0, then taunted the Bruins following his third-period tally. Brad Marchand took exception and the two dropped the gloves to settle their differences.
Well, Eller came for retribution on Thursday, but Boston’s edgy winger didn’t budge when the two forwards met at center ice during the second period. Marchand maintained his composure and sent Eller to the box, giving the Bruins another power-play attempt.
“I haven’t looked at the stat sheet, but I don’t really feel the need to check to prove anything. He plays you know, maybe 10, 12 minutes a night and I’m playing 20,” Marchand, never shy with providing a good soundbite, said about the encounter with Washington’s third-line center. “So in a 1-0 game, to go on the power play, it doesn’t make a lot of sense — so that’s the way it is.”
Eller actually skated 15:16 on Thursday night, a tad below his 16:55 season average, but it’s hard to argue the talent disparity — even with Marchand’s temptation of toeing the line.
The Bruins still can’t fully solve the Holtby puzzle
The legendary Ken Dryden and former Capitals/Canadiens netminder Jose Theodore may have company on the Bruins’ killer list. Holtby owning the Bruins has become cliche. The 29-year-old improved to 16-2-0 lifetime in the regular season against Boston, plus beat them four times in a seven-game playoff series in the 2012 first round.
The Bruins didn’t make things easy on him on Thursday, requiring a 39-save effort, but the veteran made timely and spectacular saves that appear routine whenever these two teams meet.
“Yeah, I mean, they make it hard on me with traffic and those type of things, you know, speed, the physical game,” Holtby said. “In an 82-game schedule, sometimes it’s tough to get a game like that, and sometimes it’s a little on the softer side of hockey. That’s just sometimes the way it is, I find. But whenever we play Boston, whether it’s the history, they’re always hard-fought games.”
It wasn’t a hard-fought battle the first time these two teams met in D.C. They’ll be back there on Super Bowl Sunday, as the Bruins hope to finally add a win against Washington to their last from March 29, 2014.