You couldn’t fault the Bruins for feeling an extreme sense of déjà vu after the outcome Saturday night at Verizon Center. Back in the first week of March, Boston squandered a 3-0 lead, before ultimately falling to Washington, 4-3, on an Eric Fehr goal in overtime. The script for the final game of the regular season was remarkably similar, as Fehr propelled the Caps to a 3-2 win in overtime.
The Bruins are locked in a battle with Montreal for the top spot in the Northeast Division. The Canadiens turned out to be victorious in Toronto Saturday, which meant Boston needed to claim at least a point in its game in D.C. to keep hope alive for its fourth division title in five years.
The Caps have already salted the Southeast Division crown. You have to give the home team credit, they fought extremely hard in another game with little meaning, very much the way they did at home against Ottawa on Thursday.
The Bruins took a lead in the first period thanks to a fluke goal from Milan Lucic. Boston is the number one face-off team in the NHL and they converted after David Krejci won an offensive-zone draw. Lucic fired a shot that was likely going wide of the goal before it struck the skate of Karl Alzner and bounced past a startled Braden Holtby in the nets for Washington.
The visitors moved their lead to a two goals when defenseman Andrew Ference jumped up into a rush to drill an old-fashioned wrist shot past Holtby on the glove side at 7:49 of the second period.
The Bruins were perfect last season protecting a lead after two periods (32-0-0). This year has not been so convincing, as they had dropped seven decisions (in regulation or after 60 minutes) when leading after 40 minutes.
The Caps power play, which had failed on its first eight tries against the Bruins over three games, would trigger the rally.
Mike Green scored the first of his two goals with a long wrist shot at 5:26 of the third period. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who had blanked both Florida and Tampa Bay in his last two outings, was partially screened by Zdeno Chara, and reacted angrily when the puck went hissing by his blocker side.
Less than two minutes later, and on the power play once again, Green would cash-in. This time Mike Ribeiro laid out a soft pass to Green, who blasted a long-range slapper that beat Rask low to the stick side.
The two teams would play the last 12 minutes scoreless, which set up another dramatic overtime finish.
No defenseman in the NHL has taken more penalties than Zdeno Chara this year, and the gigantic Bruin found himself in the penalty box for hooking Ribeiro at 1:40 of overtime.
It was another battle of strength vs. strength, the #1 power-play in the league (Washington) against the best penalty-killing crew in the NHL (Boston).
Ribeiro would find Green with a pass about 25 feet in front of Rask. Green’s drive got up quickly on Rask, who made the initial stop, but could not secure the rebound. Eric Fehr was in the right spot at the right time to chip home the decisive tally at 3:23 of overtime.
With the New York Rangers winning earlier in the day and the Ottawa Senators falling in regulation to Philadelphia, the Caps know they will draw the Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That is the only Eastern Conference match-up that is confirmed, as the Bruins still have to play Ottawa tomorrow at home to settle the rest of the scores.
Stay tuned to Comcast SportsNet and CSNWashington.com for more information on game dates and times for the Caps and Rangers, who will be meeting in the postseason for the fourth time in the last five years.