By Scott McLaughlin, DFP Staff
Entering the 2009-2010 season with greater expectations than they’ve had in years, the Boston Bruins responded with an exceptionally lackluster performance in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on opening night.
The Bruins controlled the flow of the game for the first half of the first period, but that’s where the list of positives comes to an end. For the next 50 minutes, the Capitals dominated both even-strength and special-teams play. Washington outshot Boston, 34-20, and went 2-for-4 on the power play while shutting down all five of the Bruins’ man-up chances.
“I think maybe the first 10 minutes or so, we played decent hockey,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “But our emotional level was far below where it should be, obviously. It was disappointing. It was an overwhelmingly flat feeling, which isn’t what it should be on opening night.”
That flat feeling culminated with a too many men on the ice penalty at the 17-minute mark of the first that led to a Brooks Laich (2 goals, 1 assist) power-play goal just 15 seconds later. Boston was trying to get a tired line off the ice after an icing when defenseman Dennis Wideman slid a pass toward his own bench. Mark Recchi came off the bench and corralled the pass, but the player he was replacing had yet to come off.
Just seconds after the ensuing faceoff, megastar Alexander Ovechkin (2 goals, 1 assist) teed up a shot from the right circle. The shot actually misfired, but ended up on Laich’s blade just to the left of the crease, where he promptly deposited it past a sprawling Tim Thomas (30 saves).
“When you play teams like Washington, they’re a very good team and they take advantage of those kinds of little mistakes,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the too many men penalty. “Those things come back to haunt you. Right there and then, that kind of changed the momentum a little bit. We started playing on our heels.”
Ovechkin upped the lead to 2-0 9:31 into the second frame when he came off the bench unmarked, took a pass at the Boston blue line, moved in still unmarked and fired a snap shot between Thomas’ pads. The Capitals put the game out of reach when Laich and Ovechkin added their second goals of the game within the first two minutes of the third.
“If you look at the two Ovechkin goals, we gave him so much room entering the zone,” Ference said. “That’s gonna be lethal.”
Meanwhile, the Bruins had the power-play chances to keep the game close, but failed to do anything more than get set up and make some short passes along the wall. When they did throw pucks toward the net, they rarely got through as Washington blocked 13 shots on the night.
“They had some good blocks,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “Their forwards, even their D, block a lot of shots. We have to make sure we get those through. If the puck doesn’t get to the net, it’s gonna be hard to score. Obviously, we have to make sure we have more traffic, but also get the shots on net.”
Already trailing 4-0, Bergeron was finally able to give the Boston faithful something to cheer about when he broke up Jose Theodore’s (19 saves) shutout bid at the 7:56 mark of the final stanza. After a Capital defender misplayed a puck at the Boston blue line, Bergeron found himself with nothing but open ice in front of him from center ice on.
He stormed down the left wing before putting on the brakes at the top of the crease and sliding a backhander past Theodore’s right skate. But like a log thrown on a dying fire, that goal did nothing more than create a small spark that quickly vanished into the air.
“This will not be the team you’re gonna see night after night this year,” Julien said. “That much I can guarantee you.”