BOSTON – Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau finds it hard to believe his club has won a franchise record 11 straight games. Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien feels the same about his team’s eight-game losing streak.
In what loomed as a mismatch between the highest and lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, the Capitals finally took their first lead in the third period and beat the Bruins 4-1 on Tuesday night. The Capitals’ record winning streak of 10 games set 26 years ago had been surpassed.
“It’s pretty mind boggling,” Boudreau said. “It’s a good milestone for these guys and you could see when they got the lead we finally started playing better.”
But until the third period, Julien said, the Bruins had played very well.
“After two periods, there’s no doubt which team was the better team,” he said. “The minute they score a goal in the third and, again, with what’s been happening, we tightened up and it got worse.”
Brooks Laich capitalized on a turnover and broke a 1-1 tie at 5:04 of the third period. Boston defenceman Matt Hunwick, standing near the Bruins goal, backhanded the puck behind the net and along the left side boards. But instead of a Bruin gaining control, it went to Alexander Semin.
He passed to Laich, who scored his 17th goal of the season from the slot.
“I’ve replayed that about 100 times in my head,” Hunwick said. “After I blocked the shot, I controlled it for a second. I just wanted to keep puck control for us. I wanted to keep possession and not just fire it (forward) off the glass. But, obviously, in the third period maybe that’s the safer play.”
Less than three minutes after Laich’s goal, Boyd Gordon scored his second of the season. Alex Ovechkin added an empty-net goal at 19:28, his 36th, against the Bruins, who are 0-6-2 in their past eight games.
The Capitals broke the club record set from Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 1984 and have the NHL’s longest winning streak since the San Jose Sharks also won 11 in a row from Feb. 21-March 14, 2008. During their 11 wins, the Capitals, who play the New York Rangers on Thursday, have outscored opponents 51-22.
“Everybody is pretty proud of it,” said Mike Knuble, who tied the game 1-1 at 2:04 of the second period. “It’s something to talk about. We know it’s not going to last forever, but it’s a great thing to be a part of.”
The Capitals increased their Eastern Conference lead to 10 points over the New Jersey Devils, who lost to Toronto 3-0 Tuesday night.
“It’s nice to have streaks and stuff,” said Tom Poti, who had two assists, “but we have bigger dreams and bigger goals.”
The Bruins dropped into 12th place in the conference with 55 points after finishing first in the East last season and face the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. They’ve been outscored 28-12 in their current slide, the longest since they also lost eight in a row from Dec. 22, 1955-Jan. 12, 1956.
Boston lost despite outshooting Washington 42-26 as goaltender Jose Theodore was outstanding for the Capitals.
“We’ve got to try and keep our heads up,” Boston centre Marc Savard said. “That’s another good effort against the best team in the East and we deserved better.”
The Bruins had taken a 1-0 lead with a two-man advantage when David Krejci scored at 6:58 of the first period, just eight seconds after Semin joined Matt Bradley in the penalty box. Savard passed from low in the right circle across the crease where Krejci scored his 10th goal.
But the Capitals came out aggressively in the second period. Poti carried the puck across the blue line on the left side and continued in deep before passing to Knuble, who tipped it in from the right corner of the net.
Krejci had a chance to give the Bruins a lead on a penalty shot at 10:34 of the second period after Knuble hit him from behind. But Krejci’s shot went wide to the left of Theodore.
“Jose was tremendous,” Boudreau said. “Once we got the first goal in the third period, it just really took the wind out of their sails and they’re saying, ‘What do we have to do to score?’
“I thought they were getting frustrated. “
Notes: Bruins defenceman Mark Stuart missed the game after having surgery Monday for a broken left pinky finger and is expected to be sidelined four weeks. … Washington’s Mike Green, the highest-scoring defenceman in the NHL, served the second game of a three-game suspension for delivering an elbow to the head of Florida’s Michael Frolik on Friday. … The Bruins went 1 for 4 on the power play in the first period after having two or fewer power-play opportunities in eight of their previous 10 games. … At home, the Bruins are 0-6-1 since their last win on Jan. 1, 2-1 over the Philadelphia Flyers in the outdoor Winter Classic at Fenway Park.