It’s a simple enough theory: when you want to keep the team with the most power play goals in the NHL from scoring, you have to stay out of the penalty box. That was the challenge for the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, as they tried to correct their mistakes and avoid a repeat of Saturday’s loss against the Washington Capitals, where they allowed two power-play goals from the NHL’s second-best unit.
On Thursday, discipline won the hockey game. It was the exact blueprint the Bruins were looking for as they picked up their 40th win of the 2013-14 season with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Capitals.
“Our whole team really played well without the puck,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “I thought we skated well. I liked our pace this morning in the skate, so it was important for us to bring that tonight. And when you take away their time and space the way we did tonight, it makes us a much better team. I thought we did a great job of getting on them quickly and not giving them opportunities to make too many plays.”
While staying out of the box was key for the Bruins to pick up the win, credit the team’s defense for stifling the Capitals forwards. Washington had only 16 shots on net, eight of which came in the third period. Another key to victory that the Bruins accomplished? Holding Alexander Ovechkin to one shot on goal. In Saturday’s loss, Ovechkin had nine shots on net for two goals.
“It’s something that you have to be very careful of, especially when it’s a 2-0 game,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “That one goal can put them on, feed them and give them energy and we didn’t want to do that. It’s just kind of a fine line that you have to still play a strong game defensively and at the same time, know that they’re kind of one goal away from being back in the game. It was a good effort and we battled hard. We stayed disciplined.”
Tuukka Rask stopped all of Washington’s 16 shots and picked up his sixth shutout of the season, leading all NHL goaltenders. It was also the first time Rask had beaten the Capitals in his career. Though he didn’t have to work too hard for the win, Rask credited the defense as well for being able to contain the Capitals shots and otherwise potent offense.
“It was the best in a long time, to keep them to 16 shots and not too many scoring chances,” Rask said, when asked about the Bruins’ defensive effort. “We had layers all over the ice, defended the middle really good, back-checked hard, and had all the elements we want. So it was great to see that.” After a scoreless first period, Gregory Campbell put the Bruins on the scoreboard after tipping in Patrice Bergeron’s shot on a delayed penalty call on the Capitals. With no penalties called on either side, Thursday’s game was the first game since February 24, 2012 where the Bruins had no calls against them.
Loui Eriksson scored his first goal since January 27, beating Braden Holtby in the slot after a wraparound pass from linemate Carl Soderberg. Eriksson’s seventh goal of the year gave the Bruins a two-score cushion, while Brad Marchand’s empty net tally wrapped put the win.
The Bruins are now riding a three-game win streak, heading to Florida for games against the Lightning and Panthers.
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Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.