Caps stay in playoff hunt, beat Boston 3-2 in shootout

Elise Amendola | AP
Posted March 29, 2012, at 10:55 p.m.
Last modified March 29, 2012, at 11:36 p.m.

BOSTON — The Washington Capitals lost a goalie, a forward and a 2-0 lead.

And they still managed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Brooks Laich scored in the fourth round of a shootout to give Washington a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night and help the Capitals hold onto the eighth spot in the East. Washington is tied with Buffalo with 86 points; the Sabres have five games remaining and the Capitals have four.

“We are back on track,” said Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin, who had two assists. “We are happy to take two points and take a big step.”

The Bruins, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win, fell behind 2-0 but scored twice in the final 3:10 of regulation to force overtime. The defending Stanley Cup champions will try again Saturday against the New York Islanders

“It was good to comeback, for sure. It was somewhat of a playoff-type game,” said Andrew Ference, who made it 2-2 with 1:16 left in the third. “They were obviously desperate to get points and it showed.”

Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist in a 1:55 span midway through the third period to give Washington a 2-0 lead. But the Bruins tied it with goals by David Krejci and Andrew Ference, the second with 1:16 left in regulation.

“This is the heat. Everybody likes playing in the heat,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s playoff hockey. … A team comes back late in the game, forces overtime, and you never know what happens. You always say, ‘That team has momentum to win the game.’ But sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way.”

Tim Thomas made 21 saves for the Bruins. Michal Neuvirth stopped 19 shots after coming in at the end of the first period when Tomas Vokoun left with an apparent injury.

Hunter said only that Vokoun was “OK.”

Washington came into the game trailing idle Buffalo by two points, but the importance of the game did not seem to register. The Capitals managed just one shot in the first 8 minutes, and just two overall in the first period.

They did not help themselves when Jason Chimera was given a game misconduct late in the first for a charge that sent Adam McQuaid into the boards and knocked him out of the game. No further information on McQuaid’s condition was immediately available.

“I was looking at Adam I saw that he was kind of not quite responding well,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who had words with Chimera outside the penalty box. “So, I was first of all worried about him.”

The Capitals killed off the 5-minute major, but not before Vokoun headed to the locker room. Still, Neuvirth managed to keep them in it until the third period.

Dennis Wideman, a former Bruin, beat Thomas over his left shoulder with 12:01 remaining in regulation. Less than 2 minutes later, Ovechkin picked up his second assist when he worked a 2-on-1 and drew Chara out to the left circle before feeding to Johansson in the middle.

His stick broke in two places as he scored.

“It was a perfect pass,” Johansson said. “He put it right in the wheelhouse for me and I just wanted to get it in the net. I was lucky that when my stick broke that the puck went in.”

It stayed that way until Chara flipped a wrist shot from the blue line toward the net and Krejci tipped it out of the air and into the goal with 3:10 to play in the third period. Just 1:55 later, Ference put it past Neuvirth to tie it and send the game into overtime.

Each team had good chances to score in overtime. But it came down to a shootout.

Krejci missed, then Matt Hendricks faked Thomas out so badly that the reigning Vezina Trophy-winner fell on his behind. Tyler Seguin tied it 1-1 with a backhander, then Ovechkin missed, putting it off Thomas glove and high into the netting above the glass.

Patrice Bergeron put the puck through Neuvirth’s legs to give Boston a 2-1 lead in the shootout, but Alexander Semin’s backhander tied it.

In sudden death, Rich Peverly put it off the goalie’s left pad, then Laich went straight in and shot the puck into the goal over Thomas’ glove to give the Capitals the win.

Notes: Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg missed the game because of an infection resulting from a cut in Saturday’s game against Los Angeles. Joe Corvo replaced him in the lineup after missing six games as a healthy scratch. … The Bruins announced before the game that playoff tickets would go on sale on Friday. … McQuaid, who went into the boards in an awkward position, remained on the ice for several minutes and skated off slowly with an escort. … Ovechkin has 14 points in his last 12 games.

FLYERS 7, MAPLE LEAFS 1: Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds each scored twice and the Philadelphia Flyers beat Toronto 7-1 on Thursday night in Toronto, handing the Maple Leafs their 11th straight home loss.

The disgruntled Toronto fans chanted “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” on a couple of occasions, a clear sign most have already turned their attention to baseball season.

Matt Read, Eric Wellwood and Jakub Voracek also scored for Philadelphia, Danny Briere had four assists, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 16 saves. Mikhail Grabovski scored for Toronto.

Injuries have played a role in Toronto’s struggles and popped up again when starting goalie Jonas Gustavsson took a shot off his left knee in warmups and had to be helped to the dressing room.

That left Jussi Rynnas to make his first NHL start against the NHL’s third-highest scoring team. An emergency AHL callup because of James Reimer’s upper-body injury, Rynnas stopped 23 shots but didn’t have much of a chance with a dispirited team playing in front of him.

Two of Toronto’s four remaining games will be played at home — Saturday against Buffalo and next Thursday against Tampa — where the Leafs haven’t won since Feb. 6. The 11-game home losing run is four games longer than the previous mark for futility, set in 1984 when the franchise still called Maple Leaf Gardens home.

Schenn scored twice in the opening 12 minutes — the first came with brother Luke, a Toronto defenseman, on the ice — before Grabovski got Toronto on the board with a beautiful breakaway goal.

Simmonds extended the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 at 3:55 of the second period and Read added to it with a short-handed marker at 12:03. The “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” chants started before the period was out and resumed in the third just as Wellwood made it 5-1 at 5:49.

Notes: Toronto fell to 4-8-2 since Randy Carlyle replaced Ron Wilson as coach March 2 … The Leafs have more wins on the road (17) than at home (16) … Read leads all NHL rookies with 23 goals … Three of Brayden Schenn’s 11 goals on the season have come against the Leafs.

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