WASHINGTON – Vermont. Belfast. Prague. Jersey. D.C. That’s more than enough road-trip bonding. Sure, it was a success, but it’s high time the Boston Bruins played a game at home.
The Bruins beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 Tuesday night, running their winning streak to three games as they prepare for their home opener on Thursday—also against the Capitals.
“It’s going to be good to be home,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve had our fair share of road games.”
The Bruins spent a pair of days training in Brattleboro, Vt., before travelling to Northern Ireland for an exhibition game. There was another pre-season game in the Czech Republic before they opened the regular season there by splitting two games with Phoenix. Then they beat New Jersey on the road before arriving in Washington, where they snapped the Capitals’ four-game winning streak and held Alex Ovechkin without a point for the first time in the young season.
“It all goes back to that Vermont trip and the Europe trip, and that’s where we’ve been able to bond as a team,” said left wing Milan Lucic, who had a goal and an assist in the first period Tuesday. “We’re having a lot of fun out there, and everyone’s got each other’s back.”
So, does this mean the Bruins are going to lobby to go to Europe every year? Lucic chuckled at that suggestion.
“I think it would wear on us eventually,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, that’s why I keep bringing it up. We’re happy now to go home and have a home opener.”
David Krejci also had a goal and an assist in the first period, Matt Hunwick added a third-period goal, and Tim Thomas made 35 saves to improve to 3-0 for the Bruins.
Rookie Marcus Johansson scored the lone goal for the Capitals, whose high-powered offence has yet to catch stride—even as their penalty kill remains perfect. Washington held Boston scoreless on four power plays, leaving opponents 0 for 25 through six games.
The Bruins scored twice on Michal Neuvirth before he left the game in the first period with flu symptoms, keeping him from becoming the first netminder in Washington franchise history to play all of team’s goalie minutes through the first six games of a season.
“He complained of dizziness and a headache,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Then he came off—first time I knew about it.”
Boudreau said Neuvirth appeared to be fine after the pre-game warmup.
“As a competitor, he thinks he’s going to fight his way through it,” the coach said. “And then it probably got worse as the stress got going through the course of the game.”
Semyon Varlamov, who had been sidelined for the first few games with a groin injury, came on in relief and stopped 13 of 14 shots.
Krejci gave the Bruins the lead with his first goal of the season, completing a 2-on-1 break with Nathan Horton midway through the first period. Lucic made it 2-0 less than three minutes later, putting in the rebound of a shot by Johnny Boychuk.
The Capitals looked dreadful as they committed giveaways during back-to-back power plays in the second period, but then they scored after the teams returned to even strength, with Johansson getting his first NHL goal when he moved in unmarked to poke in a feed from Jason Chimera.
But Hunwick restored Boston’s two-goal lead early in the third, putting a drive through traffic past Varlamov’s stick side.
Ovechkin, among the league leaders with four goals and four assists, managed to put the puck in the net midway through the third period—but he did so with his hand, and officials waved it off without protest from the two-time league MVP. The Capitals, the NHL’s highest-scoring team in 2009-10, have reached four goals in a game only once so far this season.
“We’re not terrible,” Boudreau said. “We had a tough game. I thought we outplayed them pretty good for the most part. They were opportunistic, and we get a chance to play them again Thursday.”
Notes: Schultz was a defenceman on Boston’s second goal, the first time this season he has been on the ice when an opponent has scored. Schultz led the NHL with a plus-minus of plus-50 last season. … D Mike Green (upper-body injury) missed his second straight game forWashington. … Neuvirth’s 10-game home winning streak ended. The streak had tied Olie Kolzig (2000-01) for the club record. … Horton and Krejci have six points through four games for the Bruins.