In the tightest playoff series in NHL history, the first series in which each game was decided by one goal, you knew it would come down to one bounce, one last scrum. Sure enough, the Washington Capitals had the last laugh as Joel Ward scored an overtime gamewinner to beat the Boston Bruins 2-1, winning the series 4-3.
In the first period, the Capitals struck first on defenseman John Carlson’s first goal of the series. Carlson, who only scored 9 goals in the regular season, quieted the crowd with a slapshot from the point, giving Washington a 1-0 lead.
Midway through the second, Bruins fans were getting antsy, as some fans started to boo. However, towards the halfway point of the period, the suddenly red hot Tyler Seguin erupted the crowd by tapping in a dribbling puck to even the game at 1. Seguin knocked in an Andrew Ference slapshot that trickled behind Goalie Braden Holtby. Before Holtby could recover the puck, Seguin sent the Garden crowd in a frenzy.
In the end, it seemed like a tough loss for the Bruins’ to swallow. It wasn’t just that they lost the series, it’s how they lost the series. Their powerplay struggled all series long, going to 2 for 23 on the man advantage. A microcosm of the PP failures was the lost opportunity to seal Washington’s fate With 2:30 left in regulation, Washington’s Jason Chimera was called for holding. While the referees hate calling penalties late in games, this one was a blatant hold. It even seemed that the referee took a few seconds to decide whether to call the penalty, and in the end he gave the Bruins a chance to win the game. But the Bruins failed to capitalize, an ominous omen that their defense of the Cup would end shortly.
And yes, there will be no repeat. No more epic Game 7 wins, no more Tim Thomas brilliance, no more heroes. As Thomas alluded in the post-game conference, the Bruins looked exhausted. Thomas explained that the short off-season and the injuries finally added up to what he described as a “sometimes tired lockerroom”. Milan Lucic also mentioned injuries as a possible excuse, and by saying that the Bruins missed their clutch players from last year, he was implying that they missed Nathan Horton. Horton provided the game-winners in the previous two home game 7’s, and when Horton got injured in the middle of the season the Bruins hadn’t been the same team.
As for the Washington Captials, this could be their year. After being a perennial favorite and failing to reach the Finals, this 7 seed with little expectations may thrive in the underdog role.
This is a tough game to swallow for Bruins fans. Many fans threw towels and water bottles onto the ice, disgruntled that the season came to a surprising end. If anything, this loss should make Boston fans appreciate the magical run of last year. Now, it’s Celtics time!