Caps, fans wake up sleeping Bruins

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara fight for position in front of the...

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara fight for position in front of the Bruins net during Game 3 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., April 16, 2012. (LARRY DOWNING/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. - They mocked Tim Thomas by waving giant cutouts of president Obama’s head at him, a reference to his snubbing of an invitation to the White House back in January.

They mocked Zdeno Chara every time he touched the puck, booing him endlessly from start to finish.

Even Washington Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner joined in the fun, wiping his eye in jest during a scrum with Milan Lucic, as if to mockingly tell him: “You are a cry baby.”

In the end, all this mocking of the Boston Bruins by Capitals players and their fans on Monday night backfired.

Because all they ended up doing was waking up the sleeping bear.

Indeed, for a team that had pretty much seemed in a sleepy funk during the first two games of this best-of-seven first round series, the Bruins, partially thanks to the prodding inflicted on them by the Caps and their supporters, started to become their ornery selves again.

“We play better when we’re emotional and we play with an edge,” Lucic said after the Bruins' 4-3 victory over the Caps in Game 3 at the Verizon Centre.

They did exactly that.

After spotting the Caps an early 1-0 lead, the Bruins responded with four goals in the final 40 minutes to take a 2-1 lead in the series. None was bigger than Chara’s marker, a point shot that deflected off Caps defenceman Roman Hamrlik’s stick and past Caps rookie goalie Braden Holtby with just 1:53 remaining in regulation.

Earlier in the period, Chara had been smacked in the back of the head by the stick of Caps forward Matt Hendricks. No penalty was called on the play, but it certainly stirred up the Bruins captain, who finished with a goal and two assists.

“I just tried to get it at the net,” Chara said of his game-winner. “I didn’t even see it go in.”

While Chara was addressing the media inside the Boston dressing room, Lucic was down the hallway talking on the phone. We’re betting he wasn’t on the line exchanging well wishes with Alzner.

Asked about Alzner’s cry-baby gesture, Lucic laughed.

“What can I say ... this was a guy who has two roughing minors in three years,” Lucic said, a backhanded shot at Alzner’s toughness. Or lack thereof.

As for Thomas, he rejected any notion that the razzing of the fans bothered him. Nevertheless, after the game, Thomas, who had just disappeared down the tunnel toward the Boston dressing room, re-emerged to offer a few comments to some loud-mouthed fans who had been yapping at him.

There were no shortage of those.

That’s because the game marked the first time Thomas had played at the Verizon Center since he snubbed the invite to join his teammates just two kilometres down the road at the White House, where President Obama was honouring the team for its 2011 Stanley Cup victory.

At that time, Thomas, explaining his reasoning for avoiding the ceremony, wrote on his Facebook page: “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.”

When the defending Conn Smythe winner skated onto the ice for the warmup prior to Game 3, he was greeted by cutouts of Obama’s head along with various posters.

Virginia resident Brian Murphy, who goes by the pseudonym Homer McFanboy, brought a larger-than-life Obama head and stood behind the Bruins’ net for the pre-game skate.

“We just wanted to make him feel welcome,” Murphy told the Washington Times. “He’s a notorious hot head who, if you can get him distracted on anything other than hockey, it’s not a bad thing.

“I don’t see the downside in having a little fun. I’m an army veteran; I figure he wanted to make it all about politics, so I’m just playing his game at this point.”

In the end, all it did was fire Thomas and his teammates up.

And that’s when the defending champs always play their best.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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