The Bruins and Capitals have traded punches, more figuratively than literally, through five tightly contested games in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Every game has been decided by a single goal, with two of them going to overtime.
Game 5 on Saturday appeared destined for sudden death as well after the Bruins rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second period and from being down 3-2 in the third, but the Capitals took advantage of a late power-play opportunity to escape with the 4-3 win in regulation.
The power-play chance came after Benoit Pouliot was called for a weak slash on Nicklas Backstrom with 2:50 to play in the third period and the game tied at 3-3. With 1:27 left, Troy Brouwer beat Tim Thomas with a shot from the right circle that proved the difference as Washington moved within one win of eliminating the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
"It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for the way the game ended," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It was a power-play goal that I felt shouldn't have been one. This is how delicate these games are this time of year. When it's all said and done, you have to make your own breaks. They made theirs, and we didn't make ours."
Pouliot was less direct in his criticism of the call but was obviously upset at how the game ended.
"Tough call," Pouliot said. “I'll leave it to you guys, but it's a tough call to make at 2:50 [left] in the game. It's a grind out there, and sometimes you get the call, and sometimes you don't. It happened that they got it.
"It's like that all game," Pouliot added. "To call that at the end, it's disappointing, but there's nothing we can do about it. We've just got to show up tomorrow."
The Bruins will get a chance to stay alive and pull even in the series with Game 6 on Sunday in Washington. That doesn't give them much time to put this one behind them, but it may be best not to dwell on it too long anyway.
"It's tough," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "We felt there probably could have been a couple of the same calls on the other side. And then they call one just like that in our own end and they capitalized on it. It's definitely tough, but it's how it is."
The Bruins aren't a team that makes excuses, but the Bruins had a tough time holding their tongue after referees Tim Peel and Steve Kozari not only called that decisive late penalty but also didn't call Capitals forward Jason Chimera for an elbow that left Zdeno Chara dazed at the end of the first period. They also didn't blow the play dead when Joe Corvo was injured blocking a shot in the second, leading to Washington's first goal.
But the call they did make that led to Washington's winner was the most upsetting to the Bruins.
"Unfortunately, on the winning goal, it's a very weak call in my mind, and it ended up costing us the winning goal," Julien said.
Now the Bruins no longer have any margin for error, as they will need to win Sunday in Washington, then prevail again in Game 7 back in Boston to stave off elimination.
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