Yesterday’s showdown between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals was everything NBC hoped it would be as their Game of the Week. There was grit, goals, and grudges – all good ratings boosters – despite the fact that neither team had much to play for. With the Caps ensconced in the number one seed and the Bruins in the sixth slot (after clinching earlier in the weekend), it was less about playoff implications and all about momentum-building and individual milestones. In the end, Boston emerged victorious from the shootout with a final score of 4-3 and a three-game win streak heading into the postseason.
Alexander Semin finally reached the 40 goal plateau with a soft shot under Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas with just over 2 minutes gone in the first. With Semin’s accomplishment – 40 goals, 84 points in a career-high season, it seemed to the sellout crowd that Ovechkin wouldn’t be far behind in ratcheting a few more goals to claim the Maurice Richard Trophy.
Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Boston’s defense clamped down on Ovechkin throughout the game, holding Ovie to 5 shots on goal. But the Bruins’ play was more frenetic as the team looked to reverse their slow slide and enter the playoffs on a roll. While both teams seemed to be a bit more ‘safe’ in their play in their final game of the season, it was by no means without drama. The tone was set early, when the Caps’ Jason Chimera swooped down the right side and bumped into Thomas, less than ten seconds after Semin’s goal. Thomas exploded, landing a series of punches on Chimera before the two could be separated. Chimera received 2 minutes for interference, while Thomas got tagged for 4 minutes for roughing.
Tone set, the two teams settled into a wary dance on the ice that came to several confrontations – but no down-and-out fighting – and some huge hits. The second period was more of a standoff, with both teams tied 2-2 going into the third. Mike Knuble came through once again in the clutch, redirecting a Mike Green boomer past Thomas to take the lead. The Bruins came back a few minutes later on a goal by Marco Sturm to tie it up and send it to a scoreless overtime and then the final shootout of the season.
Coach Bruce Boudreau let out a sigh of relief after the game concluded. “We’re glad it’s over,” he said. “We knew for a long time we were going to be in the playoffs, so as much as you want to push them, they’re looking forward to a different kind of challenge.” That challenge begins in four days, when the Caps begin the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
Watch for our Round One preview on Wednesday. Want to keep the fires stoked? Check out my photos from the season so far.