Despite an incredible effort in which the black and gold outshot the defending champs 41-22, a weak goal eventually doomed the Bruins and snapped their season-long five game win streak.
One minute and 11 seconds after a David Krejci rocket evened the score, a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot squeaked past Halak and deflated the comeback effort. The first time the Bruins tied the game, Ovechkin roofed a shot over Halak 39 seconds later. Ovechkin added an empty net goal to ice the game, increasing his season total to 32 goals.
Bruce Cassidy countered the lauded Ovechkin line with the trio of Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner. The physical group made the presence felt and kept number eight and company largely in check for the majority of the night.
“I guess you can’t make one mistake against that line, I thought we were pretty perfect up until that point,” said Chris Wagner, in regards to Ovechkin’s goal ahead goal in the second frame. “I think we had a lot of chances, especially in the first two periods. It was a nice challenge to have. It’s nice to be trusted to be trusted like that.”
Ryan Donato, who received a promotion to the play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk with five minutes remaining in the third period trailing by a tally, uncorked a scorcher to beat Holtby.
“He attacked well, obviously finished a nice play,” said Cassidy, regarding Donato’s performance. “What I liked about that play that he scored on was that he actually covered up for the defenseman. He was in the right position when the puck found him, so as a coach those are the strides you hope players make over time…it’s just rounding it out, so tonight he was arguably our most effective forward.”
However, Holtby further extended his superb play against the Bruins. Prior to tonight’s contest, Holtby owned Boston a 15-2-0 record with a sterling 1.84 GAA and .943 save % in 17 career games. His dominance continued by stopping 39 pucks and stonewalling the Bruins on several high quality attempts.
The teams next meet on Super Bowl Sunday in the nation’s capital, which surely projects to be a physical and intense contest.