The story of this game was supposed to be about Alex Ovechkin’s race for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross trophies. After all, the two teams had nothing to play for; win or lose the Capitals would remain the East’s top seed and the Bruins are still in the sixth spot.
Yet, instead of being a bleary-eyed yawn fest, the final regular season NBC game morphed into a shootout thriller. Both Vezina winner turned backup Tim Thomas (34 out of 37 saves) and Semyon Varlamov (35 out of 38 saves) played well with Thomas looking especially sharp. In the beginning, it looked like this was going to be another Game of the Week slugfest, but it seemed like Thomas’ fisticuffs with Jason Chimera became the catalyst for the game to shift from goal scoring to goal stopping.
Struggling sniper Michael Ryder scored the Bruins’ first two goals and Marco Sturm tied the game with his team-leading 22nd goal (to give you an idea of how different these two teams are, Washington has 6 players with more goals than Sturm and Mike Green isn’t far behind with 19 tallies). Alex Semin started the scoring with his 40th of the season. The Capitals then received offensive support from two underrated players in Eric Belanger and a great deflection goal by Mike Knuble.
You’d expect the two teams to let up in this one, but that was far from the case. Mike Green nearly injured himself when he blocked a shot in overtime. The game needed to be decided by a shootout in which both David Krejci and Miroslav Satan absolutely undressed Varlamov with some sick backhand goals.
All of a sudden, the Bruins are on a roll going into the playoffs. The sixth seed is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games with a three game winning streak. Even if the Capitals weren’t in full-on attack mode, one has to wonder if today’s New Jersey-Buffalo second seed deciding game will take more meaning because the Bruins might just be the lower-ranked team to avoid in the East.
Either way, it was a great way to close out NBC’s regular season coverage. Who’s ready for the playoffs? (Raises hand.)