Boston could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory over Washington, but had to settle for inching a bit closer with a single point in the 3-2 shootout loss.
Even managing that was a bit of a feat after the Capitals finally broke a scoreless stalemate at 7:59 in the third with a goal by former Bruin Dennis Wideman. Marcus Johansson added another less than two minutes later and the Bruins found themselves down a pair with a half a period to play.
There was less than four minutes left when David Krejci finally put Boston on the board with a deflection of a Zdeno Chara shot, and Andrew Ference capped the comeback with the tying goal with 1:16 left in regulation. The Bruins couldn't close out the win in the shootout, but the late rally did provide some positives to build off.
"It's a good claw back," Ference said. "There"s always things to learn. There was an opportunity to put the game away in the first two periods with keeping their shots way down and having a long PP, but that's part of the deal. You have to try not to get too frustrated from those things. There were negatives from giving those goals, but it also is nice to claw back and at least get the point."
The Bruins did have chances early. They held Washington to just two shots in the first period and seven in the second, but still came away deadlocked at 0-0 despite a five-minute power play when Jason Chimera was given a charging major and game misconduct for a hit that knocked Adam McQuaid out of the game in the first period.
The Bruins couldn't capitalize then, but did come alive just in time to earn the single point.
"It's a disappointing loss but I liked the way we came back," Krejci said. "We kind of dug ourselves a hole in the third period, but we battled through it and came back but too bad we didn't get it done. We just try to take the positive out of this game and move on."
The Bruins, who need just one point in their final five games to clinch the playoff berth, strengthened their hold on the top spot in the Northeast Division with Thursday's point. They are now six points clear of second-place Ottawa, though they no longer have any games in hand on the Senators and still have to play in Ottawa next Thursday.
The Bruins also remained four points ahead of Southeast Division-leading Florida in the battle for the No. 2 seed in the East. The Panthers also picked up a single point on the night with an overtime loss to the Wild. That game finished after the Boston’s shootout loss, and the Bruins were very aware of the happenings in Minnesota as the late-season scoreboard watching is in full effect.
"I think you can't stop watching that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You know, there's still some situations — Florida's playing right now, and they're four points behind us, and five with tonight, but by the end of this game, they could be five, four or three behind us. So you're still watching, you're still scoreboard-watching a lot, and when you look at what's happened tonight with Washington, if we would have beat them, we would have clinched, but because we didn't, we're still in the same boat that we were before the game."
The Bruins were very aware of the missed opportunity to lock up a playoff spot on Thursday, but they also know they remain in a solid position and have their sights set on much bigger goals than simply securing a berth in the postseason.
"We knew it, but it doesn't mean that we would stop thinking about on our goal," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "We knew that it would be kind of a secure position as far as playoffs but I think that we can't be thinking right now that, 'OK all we have to do is just get another two points,' and that somebody has to lose to get the clinch. I mean I think that the goal for our team is much bigger and higher than that. So, I think we should just keep playing desperate hockey till the end. We've got to get ready for the playoffs."