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Horton and Bruins bully Caps on way to victory

March 16, 2013, 11:50 PM ET [18 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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There’s no way for the Boston Bruins to exact revenge on the Washington Capitals for bouncing them out of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs in overtime of Game 7 last spring, but Anton Khudobin the Black-and-Gold took to the Garden ice with the chance to continue the misery that’s plagued Adam Oates and company in his first year behind the bench.

Sitting in relatively unfamiliar territory given what the regular season status-quo in Washington has become -- nestled in at 12th in the Eastern Conference and just three points away from the conference-worst Florida Panthers -- there’s been no denying the Caps’ lack of luck in a lockout-shortened 2013. And as you could imagine, luck would be on Boston’s side in a St. Patrick’s Day weekend showing at the Garden.

That and you know... competent goaltending.

Giving the nod to Michal Neuvirth for his ninth start of the year, rolling with the hot-hand that stopped 36 of 38 on Thursday night against the ‘Canes to bump his save-percentage up to a whopping .900 on the year, the Bruins’ 12-shot opening period came with a greatly needed wake-up from the B’s first line.

Jumping out to a 1-0 edge when Milan Lucic fed it to Nathan Horton for his eighth goal of the season and a great series of bro-esque high-fives between the slumping giants, the Bruins extended their lead out to 2-0 when Lucic gave the sellout crowd in Boston a sequel, sending it to David Krejci, who bonked home his seventh goal of the season with just 2:45 to go in the first.

But the first line wasn’t done with their fun just yet.

Despite surrendering a brutal own-goal courtesy of David Krejci, credited to the Caps’ Marcus Johansson for his second goal of the year, the Bruins regained their two-goal edge when a no-look dropback pass from Nathan Horton found its way to the blade of Andrew Ference and into the cage for his first goal since Mar. 29 (against the Caps). However, as the yammering between the sides continued, and with Washington in need of a momentum lift, the action turned to the fists.

Beginning with Brad Marchand and Washington’s Mike Ribeiro dropped the gloves in a battle of nuisances. Jabbing the Caps’ top-sixer with an uppercut and ripping his helmet off before the referees separated the two novice scrappers, the teams’ hooliganism continued mere moments later when Nathan Horton and Matt Hendricks exchanged blows in a spirited bout.

But in a bout that left the 27-year-old Horton more than annoyed with Hendricks’ “jump” off the dot, throwing fists before Horton even dropped his stick, the Bruins’ thirst to send a message to a wounded Caps team was made apparent in the closing frame in Boston.

On their first power-play of the afternoon following a slash from Jack Hillen, the Bruins made it a three-goal game just nine seconds later following a jam-around in front of Neuvirth capped by Rich Peverley’s shovel-in for his fourth goal of the season.

By all means securing the victory for the Bruins, a feisty third period came to a close with two points for the Bruins, and two beatings for Matt Hendricks, as the Washington toughguy’s day came to a close with an absolute pummeling at the hands of Adam McQuaid.

Krejci, top-line bust out of slump

Mired in their worst slump of the 2013 season, it’s almost as if the Krejci line read the criticisms thrown their way following the Bruins’ 4-1 win on Thursday. By all means invisible since the start of March, the trio simply exploded in today’s victory, and it was long overdue.

“They showed exactly what we need to see from them on a more consistent basis,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of the club’s first line. “They were skating the north-south type game, they were forechecking, being physical. Because of that they were turning pucks over, and not only that, they were strong on the puck, and they made their chances count.”

Combining for nine points, with Lucic, Horton, and Krejci all finishing with three points each, the return to normalcy for David and the Goliaths provided Boston with a sorely missed diversified offense. “A great shot from [Nathan Horton], I thought, another great play by [Milan Lucic] on both those goals, Krejci going into the pocket on his goal,” Julien noted, adding, “I liked their game, and we needed that from them.”

“We haven’t been very good. We haven’t been productive like we need to be, and it’s not even about the points or the goals, but it’s the hard work down low and being smart with the puck,” winger Nathan Horton admitted. “That all comes together when you get it deep and you’re moving your feet.”

But the contributions from the Bruins’ big three against Washington goes far beyond the boxscore; They looked scary. They were imposing. They were everything fans in the Hub long for them to be. Something that began with the play of Milan Lucic.

“Guys are scared of [Lucic] and they give him the puck. He has great vision. He saw me up in the slot there, through a couple of guys, and a great pass,” Horton said of the 24-year-old Lucic. “And on the other goal—David’s [Krejci] goal—it kind of happened that I didn’t get enough on the puck to rim it around, and I looked up and he had it again. He’s just a great player, and that’s they way we got to play.”

Bruins draw Caps into unfavorable type of game

You don’t see the Bruins’ Brad Marchand fight very often. It’s only happened one time (against Montreal’s P.K. Subban last season) in his 197 previous games with Boston, and at 5-foot-9 and with a team-leading 12 goals in 2013, it’s obvious that the Black-and-Gold would prefer to keep his hands wrapped in his gloves and not ice-packs in the sin-bin.

But like any player, No. 63 will make exceptions when they’re called for.

And when Washington’s Mike Ribeiro came calling, the tone was set -- If the Caps wanted to make this that type of game then the Bruins would kindly oblige.

Mashing the Caps’ center with an uppercut and tearing his helmet off to the delight of the sellout (and probably inebriated) TD Garden crowd, the rough stuff continued with two beatdowns on Matt Hendricks much to the delight of a sea of Black and Gold, but not to Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin.

“They have [those] kind of players, it’s their jobs. Hendy can do a great job [and] fight two times,” Ovechkin said of the Bruins’ ability to lure the Capitals into a physical game. “Sometimes we just have to not give a lot of attention on this stuff.

“When we need that kind of stuff we have to do it but I don’t think that kind of game where we have to give that attention like [Brad] Marchand and those kinds of guys like that, lots of talkers out there,” Ovechkin added when asked about the Bruins’ style.

Goading the Capitals into three fights that Boston skaters undoubtedly won, the Boston room had a different account of what went down on Garden ice. “Like, three times I yelled at him and he didn’t look at me,” Horton said about his heated scrap with Hendricks. “And then, kind of, he just sprinted at me. He kind of caught me with my gloves there. Or, maybe he did hear me. I just didn’t think he did because he wasn’t looking at me.”

In a scrap that left a bad taste in the mouths of Boston’s more physical, bruising skaters, Hendricks’ assumed attempted jump of Horton didn’t sit well with any of Boston’s skaters when his skates touched the ice in the third period of a decided game.

Prompting a shark-esque circling from Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid, the Bruins went back to what’s become their classic schoolyard bully ways, and essentially made Hendricks pick his poison: Thornton or McQuaid?

“I guess he had his pick,” McQuaid said of the incident, adding, “ I saw Thorty [Shawn Thornton] challenging him, and, like I said, I was there as well, so he looked like he didn’t want to go with Thorty so I, like I said, I gave him a second option, and I guess he didn’t want Thorty, so he made a smart decision going to me.”

Yet, as entertaining as it was for fans in the Hub, the fight wasn’t exactly kosher according to the Caps’ locker room.

“I think that’s wrong,” Washington coach Adam Oates told reporters when pressed about the Bruins’ handling of Hendricks. “He clearly didn’t want to fight Thornton and the other guy came over and made it a very, very difficult situation. I think the referees could have handled it a little quicker.”

But right or wrong, fair or bush league, the Bruins without question took the Capitals out of their element and forced them to try and play Boston’s game, something they simply couldn’t. “It’s their game, not ours,” Oates admitted.

“We have to understand that. I know it’s hard but it’s one of the strengths of that team. At the end, tough for Hendy [Matt Hendricks] there. That’s part of what they bring, that team over there. You have to beat them on the scoreboard and keep the game close.”

Up next...

It’s a quick turnaround for the B’s, who will pack their bags and head to Pittsburgh for the second time in less than a week for a Sunday matinee with the Penguins. Blowing a 2-0 lead in their last meeting, the Bruins will arrive in Pittsburgh as winners in five of their last six, and look towards Tuukka Rask to play the role of door-shutter against a Pitt attack that downed the New York Rangers 3-0 on Saturday.

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