A Bruins acquisition won them the third game of their First Round series with the Capitals, and it wasn’t Taylor Hall.
Craig Smith took a weird bounce off the boards 5:48 into the second overtime with a bad misplay from Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov, and put it in the open net to take Game 3 3-2. It was the third consecutive overtime game to open the series.
“My first priority is to get a stick on the puck, and the defenseman was just far enough away,” said Smith, who signed with the Bruins in the offseason.. “Just worked out, if it was on the other side I might not have had time to get the wrap, but I got there just in time.”
The Bruins outshot the Capitals 43-37 and missed a lot of opportunities, between a first-period 5-on-3 and plenty of open looks. Samsonov started showing some cracks in the first overtime with big rebounds, but it took a wacky play behind the net for the Bruins to capitalize.
“Our power play 5 on 3 had really good looks, their goalies made saves,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We got it to the front of the net, that’s the way goals go in when goalies are on. you need to get two or three whacks at it and in overtime we did that better.”
Hall scored the first Bruins goal in the first period, tying the score after Alex Ovechkin opened it. Brad Marchand, Monday’s overtime hero, had to tie it again with 11:32 gone in the third following a Nic Dowd tally.
It’s the second consecutive contest where the Bruins didn’t look their sharpest and had to come from behind, and the second time they did just that.
It’s not every game the Bruins are going to be able to get away with lulls or lack of capitalizing, especially in the postseason. To escape Game 3 with the win is to live another day, though.
“Two good teams are able to do that because they have good players,” said Cassidy. “I don’t think it’s going to change, I think the games are going to stay close.”
Samsonov got the start for the Capitals in his return from the Covid-19 protocol list and was the third different goalie to start in three different games. Vitek Vanecek started Game 1 and was injured, replaced by 39-year-old Craig Anderson. Anderson was out on Wednesday for “body maintenance,” and fourth-string goalie Phoenix Copley backed up.
The Bruins advantage at goaltending finally showed. Tuukka Rask stopped all the pucks he had to in overtime and shut down four of the five power plays. Samsonov stopped some tough shots early, but looked increasingly shaky as the overtimes continued.
“We played really good in OT,” said Rask. “We were probably the better team.”
David Pastrnak had a real opportunity late and was hauled down to no penalty, as — after calling 10 minors in the first three frames — the officials swallowed their whistles. There were no penalties in either overtime.
In the first overtime, the Bruins outshot Washington 17-5 and then 3-2 in the abbreviated second extra frame. They had plenty of chances and for a while, it seemed like they wouldn’t break through.
Smith finally did, and they head into Friday’s Game 4 with a series lead. If they can get away with missed chances or comebacks for long, though, remains to be seen.
“Our group is just focused on the next play,” said Smith. “Every game is a different story, we have to continue to keep moving forward and next shift mentality and that’s where we’re at.
“We’ll take the rest as it comes.”
Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.