WASHINGTON – If the Washington Capitals were feeling the pressure of the playoff race, the nerves didn’t trickle down to goalie Cristobal Huet.
Huet made 39 saves in regulation and one more in the shootout to help the Capitals pull out a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
“He came up huge on a few saves,” said Sergei Fedorov, who scored the Capitals’ lone goal in regulation. “He was outstanding.”
Boston’s Alex Auld was equally good, until the end. Auld made 32 saves, with the only goal coming on Washington’s 5-on-3 power play. Auld also made a save on Alex Ovechkin in the shootout, but Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov settled that with goals in the tiebreaker.
“When you’re on the winning side, shootouts are great. The other way, it’s tough to take, especially when those points are so important,” Boston coach Claude Julien said.
Both teams are paying attention to the standings as the playoffs approach. The Capitals are two spots and two points behind eighth-place Philadelphia and the post-season cutoff in the Eastern Conference with nine games to play.
“It looked like we were afraid to make a mistake instead of, ‘Let’s go get them,’ and play the way we can,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s the difference between teams that aren’t in it, they play loose.
“A lot of times they’re beating the other teams because they’re playing loose. We were tight a little bit out there because of the importance of the game.”
Boston is also feeling the late crunch. The Bruins are tied with the New York Rangers for sixth place in the East.
“It’s what you expect, really, to have these tight games,” Auld said. “Every year, since they implemented the extra point in the shootout, you see so many three-point games down the stretch. Every point’s so valuable, teams don’t want to give up too many turnovers and giveaways.”
The emphasis was obviously on defence early, as the teams combined for 12 shots in the opening period.
Fedorov made it 1-0 with 1:18 left in the first period. He picked up Nicklas Backstrom’s pass at the top of the right circle, and with the defence shading toward Ovechkin at the top of the left circle, slapped the puck past Auld.
The teams combined for 29 shots in the second – 16 by Boston.
Boston tied it 1-1 with Chuck Kobasew’s power-play goal 10:13 into the second period. Kobasew took Milan Lucic’s cross-ice pass and let go a shot from the right side that got past Huet.
Both teams had a number of scoring chances in the third, with Boston recording 17 shots to Washington’s nine.
Semin opened the shootout with a shot into the upper right corner of the net past Auld, and Kozlov clinched the win with a drive into the bottom left corner.
Huet saved a shot by Kobasew in the shootout and Phil Kessel missed wide left for the Bruins. Auld stopped Ovechkin before Kozlov won it in the third round.
Ovechkin didn’t score a point for the first time in nine games. He took five shots, but the Bruins concentrated on limiting his chances.
“We did a really good job eliminating their key guys,” Auld said. “Ovechkin didn’t get as many shots as you usually see him get. I thought we did a good job making sure we were aware of where he was on the ice at all times.”
Notes: Ovechkin is one point away from becoming the first Capitals player with two 100-point seasons. … Fedorov’s goal was his 10th of the season and his first since joining the Capitals in a trade with Columbus on Feb. 26. … The Capitals are set to start a season-high, six-game road trip. … Boston D Zdeno Chara missed his fifth game because of an upper body injury sustained March 8 in the previous matchup with Washington.