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Bruins take 2-1 series lead over Capitals

BY ZAC BOYER

WASHINGTON—For as extraordinary as Braden Holtby looked in the Washington Capitals’ first two playoff games, superheroes do have the simplest of weaknesses.

A pair of awkward bounces served as foils for Holtby on Monday, and the Boston Bruins, in a tumultuous, more physical game than the first two, managed to hang on for a wild, 4–3 victory over the Capitals in the third game of the teams’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

Holtby, a rookie who had stopped 72 of 74 shots in his first two postseason appearances, fumbled a wrister by Boston’s Rich Peverley early in the second period that he tipped with his glove.

But it was a shot by Zdeno Chara with under two minutes remaining that did Holtby and the Capitals in. The defenseman’s slap shot from the right point took an unfriendly carom off Roman Hamrlik’s stick, knuckling past Holtby’s left and shortside for the game-winner.

“You go to block a shot, and it goes off you and into the net,” said Brooks Laich, who did his best to give the Capitals a chance when he tied the score just over four minutes earlier. “I mean, sometimes you can’t defend against bad luck.”

The Capitals, now down 2–1 in the series, played a much more wide-open game against the Bruins than they had in the first two. The teams combined for four goals—and three overtimes—in Boston, and returned to Verizon Center and played a completely different game.

Part of that was because of the penalties. The Bruins were whistled for six calls and Washington nine, leading to two significant stretches of four-on-four play that defined the game, including the winner.

Peverley’s first goal, which came 35 seconds into the second period, was done with a man off the ice. So, too, was one by Alex Ovechkin just 13 seconds later–one that was delivered on a lob pass from Laich and allowed Ovechkin to beat Bruins goalie Tim Thomas for his 26th career playoff goal.

“Sometimes when we have opportunities to make plays, we put the puck deep and try to win the battle and go to the net,” Ovechkin said. “But sometimes we have to make a play when we have three-on-three or three-on-two.”

The Capitals scored their first goal on the power play when Alex Semin, in the high slot, took a rebound from Ovechkin and fired it between Boston’s Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuck for the advantage 16 minutes in.

Laich and the Bruins’ defenders were screening Tim Thomas, which wasn’t the first time traffic in front of the net would foil a goaltender. The Bruins got their second goal on a frantic scramble 9:38 into the second period by Daniel Paille, when he put a rebound into a wide open net, and the go-ahead goal by Boston just 1:02 into the third was the result of a frantic scramble that Brian Rolston was able to take advantage of.

“It was a rough game, especially there in the third period,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “They tried to get some of our skilled players off their game, but the guys battled back.”

Laich’s goal was a start–a momentum-changer that seemed to give the Capitals what they needed. Chara, the 6-foot-9 defenseman with the 108-mph slap shot, changed that.

Thomas and Holtby each finished with 29 saves.

“I didn’t have my best game, and I’m gonna respond in Game 4,” Holtby said. “That’s something that’s just hard work. It’s not that we’re not doing it. We know as a group that we can work better, and myself especially, and if we do, things will be better.”

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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