Coming off the high of Brad Marchand’s overtime game-winner in Game 2, the Bruins had all the momentum coming into Wednesday’s Game 3. Returning to Boston for the first true home playoff game since 2019, having already stolen back home-ice advantage, and with serious questions surrounding the health of several of the Washington Capitals players, the Bruins looked to be in control, at least as much as you can be in a 1-1 series. And though it took a back and forth, double overtime affair, the Bruins grabbed ahold of the series thanks to their top two lines, scoring all three Boston goals in their 3-2 win at the TD Garden.
This game started off pretty much the way it finished – ugly. The first period featured six penalties, three by each team, in an opening 20 minutes that never felt like it had any sort of real rhythm. Neither team scored on their power plays, including a 55 second 5-on-3 situation for the Bruins. They generated a couple of good looks, but were never able to bust through Ilya Samsonov, Washington’s third starting goaltender of the series.
In the second, though, things got interesting, and it looked like the Bruins top line was going to be an issue. When Bruins winger Brad Marchand did the same move that got him sent to the box last game, poking his stick into the side of a Capitals player’s face after the whistle, you just knew that the hockey gods were not going to let that go unpunished. So of course, it was Alex Ovechkin who opened the scoring. Charlie McAvoy slipped, the Capitals got the puck below the goal line, and the Russian great buried it.
Marchand has spent his whole career toeing the line, and crossing it in this game put the Bruins in a hole. However, deadline acquisition Taylor Hall didn’t let him take the blame for long, evening the score before on an insane move.
I mean, c’mon. How did he even see an angle to shoot that at? Big shoutout to Craig Smith for the no-look, backhand feed too. Being in Buffalo must have really done some bad stuff to Hall’s brain, because from the minute he left, he’s been back to MVP New Jersey Devil Taylor Hall, and the Bruins got him for a second round pick and a player they were going to give to the Seattle Kraken this summer. Crazy.
But with just under two minutes remaining in the period, the top line gave it right back. David Pastrnak was unable to corral a pass, which Garnet Hathaway snatched up and fed in front to Nic Dowd, who tipped it past Tuukka Rask.
Just like that, the B’s were down 2-1 going into the third, and it ended up taking another opportunity on the power play to even it up. Nic Dowd, who had given Washington the lead, inexplicably stuck his stick into Charlie McAvoy’s neck and face well behind the play, and got sent to the box for it. Just as with Marchand’s dumb penalty, the hockey gods made sure the B’s capitalized, and it was Marchand who did the honors, fully redeeming himself from his early mistake. He swatted a deflected puck out of the air, tying the game and sending the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy. If you want to know how huge this goal was, look at McAvoy at the bottom of the video, spinning around on his knees pumping his arms. For all his warts, Marchand is clutch, and this season cemented his spot among the very best in the league right now.
From that point, everyone knew what was coming: more overtime. At this point, it seems smart to expect every game in this series to go to overtime. It’s like these two teams have some kind of agreement to make this as painful for their fans as possible, living and dying with every shot and pass, night after night.
And though the first overtime passed without a winner, it didn’t take long in the second to end this one. And of course, it came from the Bruins top six, and it came out of absolutely nowhere. An obvious miscommunication between Samsonov and the Capitals defense left the puck just laying behind the Washington net, and Craig Smith, who made a great pass on Hall’s opening goal, stole the night. It was a greasy, out of nowhere goal, but one that the Bruins deserved. He ducked around the net and tucked it behind a confused Samsonov, and sent the Boston crowd home happy with a 3-2 win.
So about that top six, that now has put the B’s into the series lead 2-1: they were their best when it mattered. After years of being a top heavy team that had no depth after their top line, Boston now has two lines that are absolutely cruising. While David Pastrnak is going through what seems to be his yearly struggle to control the puck in the playoffs, the rest of those five are absolutely on fire. In close games like these have all been, having two lines rolling instead of one completely changes the equation.
With the Capitals goaltending situation as it is, it makes you wonder: how much longer can Washington hang with Boston? After letting in an iffy goal in both games one and two, Rask never let the Capitals pressure break him in this one. Both goals were never going to be saved, with yet another tipped shot leading to one, and the greatest goal-scorer of all time completely alone in front of the net causing the other. No shot on either of those, but he stopped everything else. He kept Boston in it, and that’s what he needed to do tonight. He did his job, and the guys who get paid to score did theirs.
Meanwhile, the Capitals have started a different goalie every game, and seem to have no clue who their No. 1 option is. That’s an issue in the playoffs. But most of all, the Bruins are feeling it right now. Was the winner pretty? Nope, not even close. But as Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards loves to say, “They don’t ask how, they ask how many”. And after Game 3, the scoreboard reads Boston 2- Washington 1. Game 3 is Friday night at 6:30.