Backstrom has the last laugh
Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
|Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals is congratulated by teammate Jay Beagle after Backstrom scored the game winner in game two of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Getty Images/AFP)
BOSTON - Nicklas Backstrom had the last laugh on the Boston Bruins.
Having been smacked right in the kisser by Tim Thomas in the third period, Backstrom got his revenge by beating the Bruins goalie at 2:56 of the second overtime period to give his Capitals a 2-1 victory at the TD Garden, Saturday afternoon.
With two hotly contested overtime games in the books, this best-of-seven, first-round series now moves to Washington even at 1-1.
What this matchup has lacked for goals, it has made up for in drama.
While the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers have combined for 20 goals in their first two games, the Caps and Bruins have managed just four between them.
Part of that can be attributed to the outstanding play of Thomas and Caps rookie goalie Braden Holtby. While Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov have resembled house league keepers at times, the Bruins veteran and Caps rookie have been outstanding from start to finish.
Both were flawless through regulation time in Game 1. It was Boston’s Chris Kelly who scored the only goal of that game, beating Holtby at 1:18 of overtime to give Boston a 1-0 victory on Thursday at the TD Garden.
Held off the scoreboard for almost five periods in this series, the Capitals finally solved Tim Thomas at 17:57 of the second period on a weird goal.
When Alex Ovechkin centred the puck to the side of the crease, a sliding Bruins defenceman Greg Zanon appeared as if he wanted to put his hand on it, then he decided against that when he realized he was in the crease. With Thomas wondering what his defenceman was trying to do, the Caps’ Troy Brouwer quickly jammed it over the goal line to put the visitors up 1-0.
That goal, by the way, snapped Thomas’ post-season shutout streak at 161 minutes, 41 seconds - a run that dates back to the 2011 Stanley Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks. Indeed, his previous playoff goal allowed came off the stick of Vancouver’s 17:34 of the third period of Game 6 on June 11, 2011.
At the other end of the ice, the 22-year-old Holtby, making just his second career NHL playoff start, was showing the composure of a 15-year vet.
Having been told by his buddies back in his native Lloydminster, B.C. that he plays just like Tim Thomas, Holtby has been doing exactly that.
But with the normally raucous TD Garden somewhat subdued, Benoit Pouliot turned the silence into a deafening roar by tying the game with just 7:47 remaining in regulation.
Holtby’s aggressiveness is a trait that has made him so effective in this series. Unfortunately, in this instance, it cost him.
With a deflected puck sitting loose in the slot, Holtby lunged out in an effort to poke it away. But his attempt went for naught when a diving Pouliot got there first and chipped it over the fallen Washington goalie, tying the game at 1-1.
Cue Backstrom’s heroics.