WASHINGTON — A game that began as a duel between goaltenders Tim Thomas and Michal Neuvirth ended with both starters watching the exciting conclusion from the bench.
John Carlson scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:35 left, and the Washington Capitals blew a three-goal lead before bouncing back to beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on Friday night.
Washington appeared in command after going up 3-0 in the second period against Thomas, who came in 7-0 with a sparkling 0.72 goals-against average. Thomas already had two wins over the Capitals and had not given up more than two goals in a game.
But he was unceremoniously benched after the second period by coach Claude Julien, who was looking to inject a spark into the listless Bruins.
“Let’s put it that way: It had nothing to do with Tim, OK?” Julien said.
“I understand,” Thomas said. “Coach came and talked to me after the second period and told me what his thoughts were. And I said I understand and I agree.”
Tuukka Rask replaced Thomas and kept the Capitals at bay while the Bruins scored three times in a 7-minute span of the third period to pull even. Michael Ryder started the run by tapping in a rebound with 16:53 remaining. Fifty-five seconds later, Nathan Horton scored his team-high sixth goal to get Boston to 3-2.
Shawn Thornton then put a backhander into the net with 10:09 remaining to chase the 22-year-old Neuvirth, who yielded three goals on five shots during the third period.
“He might be a little tired. He’s not used to playing under this kind of pressure,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
Neuvirth was replaced by Braden Holtby, who stopped Boston’s final four shots to win in his NHL debut.
“I didn’t know if it was fair to Braden to put him in his first game, 10 minutes to go against Boston in a tie, but he did outstanding,” Boudreau said.
Carlson scored on a slap shot off a pass from Eric Fehr to put Washington up 4-3, and Alex Ovechkin had an empty-net goal in the final minute to clinch it.
“Unfortunately, one 20-minute period is not good enough,” Rask said. “We played a good period, battled back and I knew I had to shut them out. But they got one by me and that’s enough.”
Boston had won a franchise-record five straight road games to start the season and had defeated the Capitals 3-1 and 4-1 behind Thomas last month.
Washington defenseman Mike Green didn’t play in that home-and-home series, however, and in this one he had a goal and an assist.
“It was important that we got pucks on net on him and created chances,” Green said. “When we did get opportunities to shoot the puck like we can, we were putting them in. We were fortunate enough to get him taken out of net.”
Tyler Sloan, Green and Alexander Semin scored in the second period for the Capitals.
The Capitals went up 1-0 in the opening minute of the period when Sloan gained possession of the puck after a faceoff and sent a blast from atop the right circle past the screened Thomas. It was Sloan’s fourth goal in 75 career games and first since Nov. 6, 2009.
Green added to the margin at 7:35. After taking a centering pass from Ovechkin, Green faked a shot, lined himself up between the circles and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.
Then, during a Boston power play, Semin wrestled the puck away from Patrice Bergeron near center ice and passed it to Green, who pushed it back to Semin on the left side. Semin lifted a shot past Thomas for a 3-0 lead.
Washington outshot Boston 8-3 during a scoreless first period. The Capitals had a two-man advantage for 58 seconds but got off only one shot.
NOTES: Thornton played in his 300th career game. … Ovechkin extended his points streak to five games (4 goals, 5 assists). … Washington outshot Boston 39-18.
Wild 2, Flames 1
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Martin Havlat scored his first goal of the season to break a third-period tie, and Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
Cal Clutterbuck also scored to help Minnesota finish 3-1-1 on a five-game homestand.
Rene Bourque scored a first-period goal and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 21 shots for Calgary. The Flames have lost four games in a row.
Havlat scored at 4:20 of the third period, taking a pass from Matt Cullen, kicking the puck to his stick and sneaking a shot past Kiprusoff to make it 2-1.
Havlat, who scored 18 goals last season for the Wild and 29 goals in 2008-09 for Chicago, hadn’t scored since March 29 — a stretch of 18 games. The winner also came a little more than a week after his agent Allan Walsh publicly criticized Wild coach Todd Richards for his use of Havlat.
Backstrom improved to 6-3-2, making 12 third-period saves. With just more than 2 minutes to play, Backstrom made a nice save on a shot that was tipped in the slot by Calgary’s David Moss.
While Kiprusoff has more victories against the Wild than any other goalie, Minnesota has won six of seven against the Flames since the beginning of the 2009-10 season.
Bourque opened the scoring for Calgary at 10:45 of the first period. His shot from on top of the right circle beat Backstrom over the shoulder. Since missing two games with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, Bourque has seven goals and three assists in nine games.
Clutterbuck tied it with 4:30 left in the first. After Minnesota’s Justin Falk held the puck in the offensive zone, the Wild’s Andrew Brunette found Clutterbuck just to the right of the goal.
NOTES: The game marked the beginning of a stretch in which the Flames will play nine of 11 games on the road. … Calgary forward Tim Jackman, who grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, got into a first-period fight with the Brad Staubitz. … Forwards Cody Almond and Matt Kassian made their NHL debuts for Minnesota after being called up from Houston of the American Hockey League.