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The Bruins-Capitals series reached a bitter level in Game 4 Friday night.
Tempers flared in the second period after Dmitry Orlov left his feet and delivered a high hit to Kevan Miller. The officiating crew originally assessed a major penalty to the Caps defenseman but downgraded it to a double-minor for roughing following a review.
Miller exited Friday’s matchup and was immediately sent to a nearby hospital for further testing. The Bruins delivered their payback on the scoreboard.
Brad Marchand kicked things off, tipping home David Pastrnak’s shot on the power play.
Pastrnak gave the Bruins a two-goal cushion with a power-play marker of his own 29 seconds into the final stanza. Charlie Coyle quickly extended the lead to 3-0 34 ticks later.
A frustrated Caps bunch witnessed a physical Bruins bunch overwhelm them in the physicality and shot-blocking department. Tom Wilson showcased that frustration to a T in a post-whistle scrum with Nick Ritchie after Coyle’s goal.
The Bruins encountered their lone hiccup after Alex Ovechkin’s shot deflected off Brandon Carlo’s stick on Washington’s second to last power play attempt of the night. The longtime Caps captain delivered a bruising blow to Marchand earlier in the period only to run into a clean hit by Pastrnak down the other end of the ice a shift or two after notching his second goal of the series.
Matt Grzelcyk capped off the Game 4 triumph with a bomb from the right faceoff dot for Boston’s third power-play marker.
The Bruins ended a 12-game run of one-goal playoff tilts against the Capitals with a convincing 4-1 win. Here’s what we learned after Bruce Cassidy’s squad took a 3-1 series lead.
The tight-knit Bruins locker room encountered a similar scenario a few months ago against the Caps. On that particular early March night following Wilson’s cheap shot on Carlo, they backed one another up with a spirited response in the hitting department and on the scoreboard.
Here we are a couple of months later with more significant stakes in hand. The Bruins came to the aid of another one of their blue-liners in Miller following the Orlov hit. They delivered their revenge on the scoreboard and backed each other up whenever tensions increased.
The Bruins didn’t back down to a challenge from Wilson, Ovechkin, Garnet Hathaway, Anthony Mantha, and company. It didn’t keep them from making a handful of trips to the penalty box. But they saved their best revenge for the most important stat: the goal column.
“We just tried to regroup more than anything,” Grzelcyk said regarding the vibe in the locker room during the second intermission. “Especially in the playoffs in such a big game like that, you can kind of get off track. But we have great leaders in that room, and everyone made a point to kind of refocus. We had a power play the next period, and we just wanted to make sure that we capitalized on that. Their unit did a great job getting us going and we just kind of rolled from there.”
As they processed the fallout from Miller’s trip to the hospital, the Bruins didn’t waste time to make good on their promise for their blue-collar teammate. They faced another power play chance early in the third. They quickly capitalized with Pastrnak quickly firing his first goal of the postseason.
Without a steady physical hand in Miller, the Bruins displayed their proverbial killer instinct in the final 20. Now they positioned themselves into a clinching scenario a little earlier than anticipated.
“For a guy like Millsy who steps up for every single guy in the room, we felt like we had to get it done for him,” Pastrnak said of Miller. “He’s a big part of our team, and that was our main focus going into the third was to get it done for him.”
Following his recovery from off-season surgery, the talented 2014 first-round pick scored his first goal of the regular season in one of Boston’s triumphant come-from-behind early-season wins over the Caps. He continued his torrid early-season pace through the end of February.
But Pastrnak hit a rut midway through the year as he battled a scoring drought and a recovery from COVID protocol. He slowly returned to form heading into the postseason but struggled through the first three games against the Caps.
Pastrnak passed up a golden opportunity during Boston’s first-period dominance where they did everything but put the puck in the net. But he broke through as the game progressed.
The dynamic Czech playmaker saved his best for the final 20, highlighted by a timely power-play marker and his solid hit on Ovechkin. It all came together for Pastrnak in his two-point outing.
“It happened real quick,” Pastrnak said of his hit on Ovechkin. “Good defensive play, and it definitely felt good.”
“It’s always a good time when you’re getting the chances and you know it’s right there,” Pastrnak added regarding his scoring chances. “At the same time, it’s frustrating when you’re getting a lot of chances but it doesn’t go in. But again, I’m just going to stay with it and keep shooting pucks on net.”
Even with a snakebitten Pastrnak, the Bruins never wavered. Cassidy no longer has to rely on one line for the scoring output following Taylor Hall’s arrival. Their Cup chances will only improve if Pastrnak finds his consistent scoring touch again.
We’ve seen four spirited matchups between two physical teams.
The Bruins and Caps began the series with three stellar overtime endings. That wasn’t the case in Game 4, however. Cassidy’s squad overwhelmed a visibly frustrated Capitals bunch. They countered the Caps’ desperation and put them on the brink of elimination with a spirited, well-rounded outing.
Through four games, the Bruins minimized the damage against a potent Capitals power-play unit. The Bruins made the most of their chances with the man advantage, en route to a 3-for-5 showing. Between the special teams and 5-on-5 dominance, Cassidy’s squad now sits a game away from securing a second-round matchup with the Islanders or Penguins.
“We wanted it, and it showed out there,” Cassidy said after Boston’s third straight win of Round 1. “We’ve talked about getting better all the time as it goes along, and that includes this series and that includes period to period. We’re starting to see the results here at home at least these games. Certainly in Washington, we were much better the second game than the first, and I think we’ve progressively built our game at home.”
The fourth win is always the toughest to achieve. Peter Laviolette encountered these scenarios against the Bruins behind the Flyers’ bench in 2010 and 2011. In both instances, the veteran bench boss admittedly said “the pressure is on Boston.” It worked in 2010 against an injury-plagued Bruins bunch only for the Claude Julien-backed squad to sweep them a year later en route to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
With an aging core and Ovechkin entering UFA status in the off-season, the Laviolette-led Caps face significant pressure to extend their season. The Bruins matched the desperation of the Caps in Game 4. Come Sunday; they hope to finish off a heavy Caps squad and earn some much-needed rest between series.
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