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The Bear Cave


August 30, 2009 9:06 AM

Top Game #4: Krejci Banks Bruins Past Capitals

Over the past two seasons, the transformations of the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals have been pretty amazing to watch. In the spring of 2007, Boston and Washington finished 13th and 14th respectively in the Eastern Conference, with both clubs failing to reach the 80-point mark.

During the 2007-08 campaign, the Bruins and Capitals began to turn things around, as each team was able to sneak into the playoffs with 94 points. Because of a divisional championship, Washington landed in third place, while Boston came up with an eighth place finish. Unfortunately, that's where the excitement ended, as both fell short in round one of the postseason.

This past season proved to be even better for Boston and Washington, as the two teams spent the majority of the season at the top of the Eastern Conference. When all was said and done, the Bruins completed the year in first place with 116 points, while the Capitals took home second place with 108 points.

The season series between the Bruins and Capitals reflected their records, as the four head-to-head games were exciting from start to finish. The first two battles took place in Washington, where the Capitals picked up a pair of victories thanks to strong goaltending by Brent Johnson and Jose Theodore. Ten days after the second tilt, the series shifted to Boston, where the Bruins were hoping to turn things around. The third game of the season series was played on January 27th at the TD Banknorth Garden, and that is the fourth game on our countdown.

The game did not begin how the Bruins would have liked, as the home team found itself shorthanded right away. Marc Savard got his stick up on Karl Alzner, putting Washington on the power play just seven seconds into the contest. In the closing seconds of the man advantage, Alexander Semin hit Alex Ovechkin with a pass in the slot. Tim Thomas was able to get in position for the save, deflecting the puck into the left circle. Ovechkin hustled over to chase down the rebound, then turned, and sent a pass back to Mike Green at the point. This gave Brooks Laich a chance to set up a screen in front of the crease. Green took advantage of Laich's work in front, beating Thomas glove side with a slap shot. Savard's penalty had expired one second before the goal, making it even strength.

Boston would have a response to the game's opening goal just prior to the midway point of the opening period. Alex Ovechkin made a rare mistake, as he tried snapping a cross-ice pass in his own zone. Shawn Thornton read the play perfectly, intercepting the pass just inside of the blueline. With the puck on his stick, Thornton turned and began skating toward the slot. The front of the net was a bit crowded, so the Bruins' winger leaned to the left, got the angle he was looking for, and lifted a backhander over Jose Theodore's glove.

If the Bruins could have removed the beginning and end of the first period from this game, they would have done so, as the Capitals regained the lead with 21 seconds remaining. Tomas Fleischmann skated hard down the left wing side and put a routine wrist shot on the cage. Thomas had no problems with the shot, as he blocked it down to his right. Shane Hnidy tried clearing the rebound around the boards, but was quickly pressured by Fleischmann and Chris Clark. The two eventually forced a turnover, with Fleischmann sliding a pass over to Michael Nylander with his feet. Nylander was in a prime scoring area in front of the net, allowing him to bury his club's second goal of the frame.

The start of the second period had a similar feeling to the first, as Chuck Kobasew took a hooking penalty just 37 seconds in. Washington kept the pressure on, but came up empty, thanks to Thomas and the Boston penalty kill.

Later in the period, the Capitals' Michael Nylander was given a minor penalty for hooking, putting the Bruins on the power play. Milan Lucic tried sending a back door pass to Zdeno Chara cutting in, but the pass went through to the left wing boards. That created a race to the puck between Alexander Semin and Patrice Bergeron. It appeared that Semin might be able to get there first for a clear, but Bergeron dove to keep the play alive for Boston. After getting to his feet, Bergeron snapped a pass to Marc Savard on the right side of the slot. Savard hesitated after receiving the pass, getting Jose Theodore and Karl Alzner to commit. That opened a shooting lane, and Savard went on to beat Theodore with a wrist shot low on his stick side.

Moments later, the entire Washington fan base went into a bit of a panic. Alex Ovechkin carried the puck down the right side, and was hooked from behind by Zdeno Chara. The hook was a harmless play to try and steal the puck, but Ovechkin lost his balance and crashed into the boards. The Capitals' forward stayed on the ice in pain, before letting out some steam in the runway as he went on to miss the remainder of the period. The 2008 and 2009 Hart Trophy winner did return to the ice at the start of the third.

The highlight of the final period in regulation came at the 9:39 mark, when Byron Bitz put a hit on Donald Brashear in the neutral zone. Brashear turned and asked Bitz for a fight, which the rookie promptly accepted. The two were in close for most of the fight, so neither was able to land any punches of great quality. Brashear got in more shots to the back of the head, but give credit to Bitz for taking on a true heavyweight in his first NHL fight. For Brashear, that was career fight number 200.

A scoreless third period meant that overtime would be needed to decide this one. Although it only took 1:55 for a goal to be scored, this could have arguably been the most exciting two minutes of hockey, as both teams had golden chances to skate away with the bonus point. The first chance came when Alex Ovechkin had a wrist shot stopped by Tim Thomas, but the rebound kicked out to Nicklas Backstrom in the slot. Backstrom tried shooting low, but Thomas made an incredible right pad save. This led to a 3-on-2 break the other way, and although Zdeno Chara was unable to get a shot off, he did draw a hooking penalty on Backstrom for preventing a terrific scoring chance.

Boston's power play went to work, and almost netted the winner right away. David Krejci got the puck on the left side of the net, and tried sending a wrist shot into the top corner. However, Theodore was just able to get his glove on the attempt, stopping what looked to be a sure goal. Washington cleared the zone, but the Bruins rushed back in to create another opportunity. Marc Savard started with the puck on the right side of the net, before passing out to Dennis Wideman at the right point. The Bruins continued to move the puck around their box, with Wideman dishing over to Chara, who eventually found Krejci above the goal line. Instead of going for the shot again, Krejci elected to send a pass through the crease for Savard. The pass never reached Savard, as it deflected off of Shaone Morrisonn's skate and into the back of the net.

Both goaltenders were marvelous on this night. Tim Thomas was the busier of the two, and he got the win for his efforts. Boston's backstop made 34 saves on 36 shots, including a perfect 22-for-22 after allowing a pair of goals in the first period. Jose Theodore suffered the overtime loss, as he stopped 25 of 28 shots for the Capitals.

There tends to be a lot of hype when two elite teams take the ice against one another. Sometimes, the hype ends up being right on target, while other games can end with lopsided numbers on the scoreboard. This contest between the Bruins and Capitals definitely fit the bill for the first option, as both sides could have easily walked away with the two points. The fans were on the edges of their seats for most of the night, making this one of the most entertaining games from 2008-09.

In game number three on the countdown, hats take flight at the TD Banknorth Garden, and one player was fortunate enough to see them.

2008-09 Boston Bruins Top Ten Games:
4. January 27th- Washington 2 @ BRUINS 3 (OT)
5. April 9th- Montreal 4 @ BRUINS 5 (OT)
6. April 4th- New York R. 0 @ BRUINS 1
7. March 7th- Chicago 3 @ BRUINS 5
8. February 1st- BRUINS 3 @ Montreal 1
9. November 12th- BRUINS 2 @ Chicago 1 (SO)
10A. October 27th- BRUINS 1 @ Edmonton 0 (OT)
10B. October 28th- BRUINS 1 @ Vancouver 0

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