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CAPITALS: Five-On-Three Penalty Kill Against Bruins A Defensive Highlight

By ZAC BOYER | | @ZacBoyer

WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals’ penalty kill has been one of their strengths through the final month of the season, so when the team was at 5-on-3 disadvantage at the end of the second period against Boston on Sunday, it wasn’t much of a concern.

Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle and Karl Alzner drew the shift, left on the ice for the final 21 seconds of the second period. Troy Brouwer and the Bruins’ Benoit Pouliot had been sent to the box for a pre-faceoff fracas with 38 seconds remaining, and Matt Hendricks joined them 17 seconds later after being called for tripping.

They returned for the first 1:22 of the third period before Brouwer was sprung from the box. Boston managed just one shot on goal during the period – a 50-foot slap shot by Brian Rolston – though Laich blocked three shots by defenseman Zdeno Chara and Rolston missed on another.

“I was pretty nervous, to be honest,” Alzner said. “It was fresh ice [after the third period began], guys move the puck really well, shoot the puck well, and I gave Hendy a bad pass and kind of caused the whole play for the penalty. So we were getting nervous about it, but we got some good killers, guys that have been playing well, blocking a lot of shots. It’s not the way you want to start the period, but the momentum helped us, I think.”

The Capitals had allowed only one power play goal in the first five games of the series – a third-period score by Johnny Boychuk in Game 5 on Saturday. After the 4-3 overtime loss Sunday, they’ll enter Game 7 on Wednesday with an 18-for-20 mark on the penalty kill and denials in 45 of their opponents’ last 49 opportunities, dating to March 16.

“Four-on-three, they’re tough to kill,” Capitals head coach Dale Hunter said. “You seen the guys blocking shots … they were going down, sacrificing. Especially with a guy like Chara shooting – you know how hard he can he can shoot. It’s the character of the guys that sacrifice their bodies.”

Backstrom’s Edge: Nicklas Backstrom went 7-for-13 on faceoffs against Boston’s Rich Peverley, including a pivotal win with 4:55 to play that directly set up Alex Ovechkin’s tying goal.

The two had taken 11 draws until that point – the first won by Backstrom, the next five won by Peverley and the last five won by Backstrom.

“It’s just sometimes you win, sometimes you lose those,” Backstrom said. “It just happened that way.”

Peverley, who was the recipient of Backstrom’s post-Game 4 cross-check to the face, also chalked the streak up to coincidence, though he acknowledged facing Backstrom as a center for Atlanta for parts of three seasons helped.

“Sometimes that’s just the way it goes,” Peverley said. “Guys get confidence – and I can’t lose a faceoff that cleanly, especially when Ovechkin’s back there, so you know, I need to do a better job of that.”

Backstrom sent the puck back to Ovechkin, who stopped it with his skate, gathered it and shot it, using screens from Patrice Bergeron and Dennis Seidenberg to beat goalie Tim Thomas.

Bergeron In Lineup: Bergeron was shaken up after taking hits from Ovechkin and Alexander Semin on Saturday, and to lessen his physical demands was not responsible for taking faceoffs.

He played only three shifts in the third period of Game 6, but said he never thought he wouldn’t play Sunday.

“He competed hard and he’s not taking faceoffs because he’s not 100 percent to take faceoffs, but he’s good enough to play through this whole game and play us a real solid game,” Boston head coach Claude Julien said. “It speaks volumes with this guy.”

Winger Shawn Thornton and defenseman Joe Corvo sat for the Bruins, with Jordan Caron and Mike Motteau taking their place, respectively. Thornton was a healthy scratch; Corvo injured his right leg while blocking a shot Saturday.

Center Mathieu Perreault was a healthy scratch for the Capitals for the second consecutive game with left wing Mike Knuble again in the lineup.

Worth Noting: With the Washington Wizards hosting the Charlotte Bobcats at Verizon Center on Monday, the back-to-back games in different venues was a necessity. It was the only time in the entire first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that teams played on consecutive days. “That’s the one thing about playoffs: both teams are involved in it,” Hunter said. “It’s a level playing field that way – not like during the season [when] sometimes you have a back-to-back and the other team doesn’t.”

According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, this series is the first in NHL history to feature six consecutive games decided by one goal. Coincidentally, three of them have been by a 4-3 margin.

The Capitals have played the defending Stanley Cup champion in four previous series but have never won, last being swept by Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. They have also held a 3-2 series lead on 10 occasions and advanced six times.


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