Washington threw everything it had at them over the final 20 minutes, and if not for another amazing performance from Tim Thomas, the Bruins would be staring at a four-game losing streak instead of extending the Capitals' skid to eight games with a 3-2 victory at the Garden on Saturday night.
"I think we kind of just were waiting to hear that last buzzer and get those two points, because we didn't really play our game in the third period," said Bruins forward Blake Wheeler, who had a goal and an assist in the win. "We kind of just sat back and tried to hold on as long as we could. That's not what you want to do. You want to take it to them and try to score that fourth goal and put the nail down."
The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and Wheeler in the first period, reversing their recent trend of slow starts. But they reversed everything from their recent efforts, which had usually witnessed them coming on strong in the later stages of the game.
In this one, it was Washington that launched the all-out assault late, scoring once in the second, then dominating the third period. The Capitals outshot Boston 26-2 in the third, with the puck rarely leaving the Bruins' zone in the period.
But Thomas stopped 25 of those third-period shots and 39 overall on the night to literally save the day for the Bruins.
"Well it certainly saved us," said coach Claude Julien of Thomas' performance. "There's no doubt about that. It's unfortunate. We had a real good start and I thought we took the game to them very well in the first. In the second period, again, you knew they were going to come out better and I thought we held our own and still had our chances. I thought we had about four really good chances to score that fourth goal and it never came.
"So, you know, we came out in the third and we did exactly what we weren't supposed to do," added Julien. "We were supposed to keep taking the game to them and we just didn't do it. It's unfortunate. We played 40 minutes, and sometimes it's a bad start and a good second and third, or tonight it was a bad third and a good first and second. So we got to put three solid periods together here sooner than later."
Thomas admitted that he was taken by surprise by Washington's third-period onslaught.
"I didn't know what we were going to get," said Thomas. "They turned it up for a while in the second there, and then they kind of went back to sleep a little bit and I didn't know. They looked like a tired team for the first two periods and I was hoping that was the case, but it turned out not to be."
It was just as well for Thomas, who thrives with the extra work and struggled to find a rhythm when Washington managed just five shots in the first and 10 in the second.
"I really had to force myself to work," said Thomas. "Sometimes it just comes easy. In the first period and part of the second I really had to force myself to work. By the time the third period came around, I got into that working mode. It wasn't work anymore. The third was easy."
It sure didn't look easy for the Bruins, who saw the Caps pull within one with 5:28 to play, then had to sweat it out until the final seconds with several mad scrambles in front of the Boston net. But hold on they did, and they can at least take some solace out of that.
"At least we can always take positives out of the game, and our first period was something we can look to build off of," said defenseman Adam McQuaid. "Hopefully we can keep working toward getting that full 60-minute effort. We still won the game, so we have to be a little happy with that, right?"