Joe McDonald, a native Rhode Islander, joined ESPNBoston.com as a Bruins and Red Sox reporter in February 2010. He has worked at the Providence Journal since 1992, covering the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, PawSox and Providence Bruins over the past nine years. Ask a question in our next Bruins mailbag. Follow him on Twitter here.
James Murphy has covered the Bruins and the NHL for the last nine seasons. In addition to being in his second season with ESPNBostoncom, Murphy has written for NHL.com, NESN.com, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine. He also hosts the “Hockey Prime Time Show” heard every Saturday from 2-4 p.m. ET on “NHL Home Ice” XM 92 and Sirius 207 as well as hockeyprimetime.com. Ask a question in our next Bruins mailbag
Funny, they were just talking about all this stuff.
the anticipated battle between Alex Ovechkin’s line and the Bruins’ shutdown defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg was a hot topic. so was the goaltending duel, in which Tim Thomas seemed to have it all over rookie Braden Holtby, who had to play because the Washington Capitals’ Nos. 1 and 2 goalies are hurt.
There was also the question of whether the Bruins could expect this year’s third line to contribute as last year’s third line did to their Stanley Cup run.
“For the last few weeks, they’ve scored some goals for us and been a good line,” coach Claude Julien said Wednesday, when asked if a Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Brian Rolston trio could contribute as much as Michael Ryder-Kelly-Rich Peverley did last year. “They need to be that same line going into the playoffs.”
In a game that saw Ovechkin neutralized after a monumental physical battle with Chara and Seidenberg, plus impeccably focused goaltending from Thomas (17 saves) while his younger, busier counterpart dazzled, the Bruins needed one more thing: A goal.
Kelly got it 1:18 into overtime, giving the B’s a 1-0 win and 1-0 lead in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series. the goal, on a long-distance slapper, came at the end of a line rush – Rolston to Pouliot, Pouliot to Kelly – that began with a Thomas save on Marcus Johansson, followed by Joe Corvo’s outlet pass.
“I think I was probably the most surprised in the building,” said Kelly, wearing this year’s Player of the Game award – a heavy chain (“symbolizes a team,” Kelly explained) fashioned by defenseman Andrew Ference, who famously bought a cheesy, vintage Bruins windbreaker online to bestow on last year’s most valuable playoff players. “Goalies are so good now, the days of going down the wing and beating a goalie with a long shot are gone.”
the goalies were certainly good last night. Holtby (29 saves), who played only 7 NHL games this year, kept the Caps in the game while his teammates were getting outshot, 26-7, over the first two periods. Thomas was razor sharp in a nightmare game for goalies – long periods of inactivity, interrupted by prime scoring opportunities.
Incredibly, only one came off the stick of Ovechkin, who led the game with 7 hits while Seidenberg (6) and Chara (4) combined for 10. Ovechkin’s chance came during a third-period power play, a one-timer from the left circle that forced Thomas to slide post-to-post fast enough to get the toe of his skate on it.
Had that shot resulted in the game’s only goal, the B’s would be kicking themselves entering Game 2 Saturday (3 p.m., NBC, WBZ-FM/98.5). They had more than enough opportunities and power plays (4) to take control before the third period (shots in the second were 17-2, Boston), but succeeded only in giving Holtby confidence and the Caps hope they could steal a game and the Bruins’ home-ice advantage.
“Not to say we were bad, but I thought they were the better team … in the third period,” Julien said. “But, you know, that’s the ebbs and flows of a game. overall, I thought our team played pretty well.”
“It’s one of those games that scares you,” Corvo said. “their goalie is playing well, and you just don’t want to let them steal the first one.”
Kelly, coming off the first 20-goal regular season of his career, took care of that.
“we talked about that line being able to hopeful get some secondary scoring, like our third line did last year,” Julien said. “They’re off to a good start.”
Mike Loftus may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. on Twitter: @loftusatledger.