The Boston Bruins were sick of losing, again.
They entered Monday’s tilt with the Washington Capitals having lost eight of their last nine games. Hardly an ideal situation against a Capitals squad that won 16 of their previous 17 meetings.
It didn’t matter. The Bruins, without Zdeno Chara (jaw procedure), needed this 7-3 victory for a morale boost heading into the holiday break.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad got that boost in a statement win over the NHL-leading Capitals in front of 17,580 at TD Garden. And they came out firing from the get-go.
Jake DeBrusk (power play), Brad Marchand (first goal since Nov. 27), Anders Bjork and Patrice Bergeron (on a 5-on-3 power play) all netted tallies in the opening 20 minutes, thus ending Braden Holtby’s night early.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 24, 2019
Charlie Coyle scored a shorthanded marker on backup Ilya Samsonov for his 100th career goal 6:55 into the second. The Bruins wouldn’t be denied even with a head-scratching disallowed goal earlier in the middle stanza
Charlie Coyle scores his 100th career NHL goal and it’s a shorthanded beauty
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 24, 2019
Bergeron and David Krejci each added empty-netters following Washington tallies from Alex Ovechkin (at 14:35 in the second), Lars Eller (at 15:29 of the third) and Garnet Hathaway (scoring 57 seconds after Krejci’s empty-netter at 17:47).
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s statement win in its final meeting of the regular season with Washington.
Bruins chase Holtby following their thunderous start
Holtby loves playing against the Bruins. His success against the Black and Gold started with his stellar first-round playoff performance in 2012. It continued well into the decade as he entered Monday’s tilt sporting an 18-3-0 regular-season mark against Boston to go along with four shutouts, a 1.82 goals-against average and a stellar .944 save percentage.
The veteran netminder and 2016 Vezina winner played in every minute of every start in his career against the Bruins…until Monday.
The Bruins chased Holtby firing four goals on 11 first period shots. Bergeron’s tip-in on a late 5-on-3 attempt sealed Holtby’s rare off night against the Black and Gold.
Quite the no-look pass from David Pastrnak here on Patrice Bergeron’s PP goal pic.twitter.com/C3lbi4nXT0
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) December 24, 2019
“It was big to have the start that we did. It’s a lot easier to play this team when you have the lead and make them take chances.” Marchand said after breaking his 12-game goal drought. “It was big for us. And it allowed us to feel comfortable in the game early on, and we just rolled from there.”
Marchand and company had a comfortable margin to work with all night. The Bruins, however, endured some physical and somewhat painful moments.
Things got feisty in the third
A frustrated Capitals side still lived up to their M.O. with some thunderous hits. Yet, they still engaged some late, unnecessary contact at times, including Ovechkin’s slew foot on Matt Grzelcyk in the second period.
The Bruins stood together through it all, especially in the third. David Pastrnak took exception to Tom Wilson’s spear toward the end of a shift, eventually starting a donnybrook. The two combatants each received two-minute minors for roughing with Wilson also earning a 10-minute misconduct to end his night.
Tom Wilson gets ejected late in the game pic.twitter.com/gFnTjLgpaz
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 24, 2019
Late in regulation, with the game well out of reach, T.J. Oshie delivered a thunderous hit on Charlie McAvoy near the Capitals bench. The former Boston University defenseman skated to the locker room, missing the last few seconds that included another line brawl after the buzzer. Oshie did not receive any call for the hit.
A look at T.J. Oshie’s hit on Charlie McAvoy. pic.twitter.com/DxTKfQCqwM
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 24, 2019
Cassidy expressed some frustration during the postgame press conference. For the most part, though, the Bruins didn’t want to voice out their opinions following the game figuring the league will review some of the incidents from the third.
“There were a few incidents tonight, I imagine player safety might be a little bit busy. I know if it was a guy like a Marchand of the world, they’d be getting looked at,” Cassidy said. “I don’t want to say it was clean or dirty because I have not looked at it and imagine it will get looked at. They’ll have to judge that accordingly, right?”
Marchand has his well-documented history of supplemental discipline with the Player Safety. So does Wilson. At the very least, the department will have to take a look at Wilson’s incident, and maybe even Oshie’s.
Tuukka Rask bounced back
He had a sleepy moment in the third on Hathaway’s tally, but Rask surely stayed sharp in a bounce-back effort.
With Chara out and Torey Krug leaving with an upper-body ailment following a collision with Wilson in the middle stanza, the Bruins needed Rask to hold the fort at times. The Finn made 39 saves on the night, 31 of which came in the second and third periods.
Unlike his previous five starts, the 2014 Vezina Winner made some timely saves to keep the Bruins in a comfortable spot.
Tuukka Rask with a nice stop on Alex Ovechkin pic.twitter.com/SFnaBCWTym
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) December 24, 2019
“We got up early obviously, finished our plays around the top of their crease. And then we got our saves when we needed them, especially penalty kill. There was a couple early on there we gave up some good looks, Ovechkin and Oshie on their first power play. And then from there, they had their push in the second again, good saves,” Cassidy said. “Tuukka was solid tonight. Obviously, the last goal was a miscommunication between the defense and the icing. But other than that, he was really solid.”
Rask needed a solid outing and so did the Bruins. Happy holidays indeed.