April 22, 2012

Time getting short for Bruins

By Andrew Merritt

BOSTON – It took the Bruins 28 seconds of game time – just 64 seconds of real time - to get back into Game 5 against Washington on Saturday. Yet somehow, a team that scored twice within in a minute on 16 occasions during the regular season found itself needing a little more time. 

Bruins d-man Johnny Boychuk grabs a hold of Capitals forward Troy Brouwer during Game 5 at TD Garden. (Getty Images)

The goals by Dennis Seidenberg and Brad Marchand at the 17:21 and 17:49 marks of the second period, respectively, marked just the third time in the series that a team scored back-to-back goals, and it came at a crucial point: right after Jay Beagle and the Capitals pulled off that feat for the second time in the series, giving Washington a two-goal advantage.

Yet while teams talk about the momentum boost of scoring goals toward the end of periods, it’s possible that the two minutes and 11 seconds left on the clock after Marchand’s tying goal weren’t enough for the Bruins’ momentum to reach critical mass and give them the game, one they lost 4-3.

“I thought those goals were big, got us back in the game and it’s unfortunate that the clock was running out at that point because we were really picking up some steam and then had to go in the room and get a rest there before coming out in the third,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien.

The momentum swing after Marchand’s putback goal was obvious, even palpable. TD Garden was rocking, with PA announcer Jim Martin barely audible over the crowd as he read off the details from the Bruins’ quick-strike goals – he didn’t have time to announce Seidenberg’s before Marchand tucked the rebound from a Johnny Boychuk shot between Braden Holtby’s pads.

The Bruins buzzed Holtby for the rest of the period. They took four shots in the final 2:11, and with half a minute to go, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand crashed the net hard, with both doing a little pushing and shoving with the Capitals’ defensemen. After the siren sounded, Rich Peverley even stuck around in the Caps’ offensive zone to have an informal chat with Holtby, and the words did not appear to be friendly.

For all that new life the Bruins showed, though, what they didn’t do was score the go-ahead goal. The four shots were all testers, even Andrew Ference’s long drive as time expired. But none of them got past Holtby, the score stayed tied at 2, and the visitors were able to escape to the locker room for a sigh of relief.

 “I think it was kind of good that we had an intermission right away, just to settle down a bit,” said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer, who went on to score the game-winner. “We knew we were in a good hockey game, and the whole series has been like this, it’s been one goal, back-and-forth, a lot of tie games. We’re comfortable in a situation where we’re tied or one goal away going into the third.”

Exactly 17 minutes and 50 seconds passed between Holtby gloving Ference’s blast to end the second and David Krejci winning a faceoff against Nicklas Backstrom to start the third. That, it appeared, was what the Capitals needed to rediscover their comfort zone. Three minutes and 21 seconds into the third, Mike Knuble sent a cross-ice feed to Joel Ward, who handled it long enough for Knuble to streak up the ice, sneak past a backchecking Shawn Thornton and bang home a one-timer, giving the Caps the lead again.

It was a goal that “gave them some momentum swing and some confidence,” Julien said.

“But we were able to battle back, score that big power play goal.”

Indeed, Johnny Boychuk retied it on a power play blast, after Dennis Wideman foolishly cross checked Marchand across the collarbone. Yet the Caps had already absorbed Boston’s biggest blow of the series, and managed to counterpunch, so they were ready to go one more round.

“Especially late in the game like that, we were getting buzzed a little bit, and I think they had a little momentum off their power play goal,” Brouwer said. “For us to be able to get a power play late, create a little bit of offense and get a power play goal, it’s good.”

More than good, Brouwer’s strike with 1:27 to go was what the Caps needed to seal the deal and head home for a chance at eliminating the Bruins. The goal came on a power play given for a slashing call to Benoit Pouliot, and while the call itself may be questionable, coming so late in a playoff game, this much is not: The Bruins are in trouble, and the Capitals are on a roll.

The teams had less than 24 hours to prepare for Game 6 at the Verizon Center. Brouwer said the short downtime is good for a Capitals team looking to hold on to the momentum of its Game 5 win, and the mission is managing emotions.

“It’s tough, you know you’ve got to calm your nerves right away,” Brouwer said. “You know it’s going to be a close game, it’s going to be a very desperate game. Teams are going to take chances if their backs are against the wall, and you’ve just got to fall back on your systems that you’ve been using all season long.”

For the Bruins, Boychuk said, the mission is incredibly simple.

“Battle for our lives. Plain and simple.”

Andrew Merritt can be reached at MerrittNEHJ@gmail.com.