WASHINGTON -- Two days after losing their home ice advantage the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins got it back -- with a snarl.
In a game that featured 40 penalty minutes and a post-game scrum that resulted in a match penalty for Capitals star center Nicklas Backstrom, the Bruins took back control of the series when Zdeno Chara scored the game-winner with 1:53 remaining in the third period to give Boston a 4-3 victory over Washington on Monday night.
The Bruins also stepped up their physical play, outhitting the Capitals 58-36 while taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series.
"That's what a playoff series is all about," said Milan Lucic, who delivered a game-high eight hits. "We're fighting to win games and move on, and tempers are going to flare. It's only a matter of time before things heated up, and that's basically what happened."
Those emotions spilled over when the final horn sounded. Backstrom and Rich Peverley got into a scuffle behind the Capitals net, and Backstrom came up high with his stick with a cross-check.
Backstrom received a match penalty on the play, which calls for an automatic suspension, pending a review by NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan.
"He tried to cross-check me in the face," Peverley said after the game. "We'll let the league deal with that."
"They (called) a match, but I think the league will review it and rescind it," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "If you see it, it's not that bad."
Chara's game-winning shot appeared to deflect off the stick of either teammate Dennis Seidenberg or Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik, both of whom were tangled in front of rookie goalie Braden Holtby. The puck changed direction and sailed over Holtby's glove.
"It's no secret, especially in the playoffs, we want to get as many pucks to the net as possible and usually good things happen," Chara said of his first goal of the postseason. "We got two bounces."
Peverley, Dan Paille and Brian Rolston also scored for the Bruins. The Capitals received goals from Alexander Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich.
"It's tough," said Ovechkin, who led the Capitals with one goal, one assist and five hits. "But the series is not ended. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose, and unfortunately, we lost. I think we played great today but we made a couple mistakes and it cost us. It was a great battle."
The Bruins grabbed their first lead of the game 62 seconds into the third period when the oldest player on the ice, 39-year-old Rolston, finished off a gritty shift with his first goal of the playoffs and 20th post-season tally of his career. That made it 3-2.
The Capitals, who owned leads of 1-0 and 2-1, answered with six minutes remaining in regulation when Backstrom sprung Laich on a breakaway. Laich lifted a backhander over Boston goalie Tim Thomas to knot the score.
That set the stage for Chara's game-winner.
The two teams entered the third period locked in a 2-2 tie, which matched the number of goals the two teams combined to score in Games 1 and 2.
The Capitals scored the first power-play goal of the series when Semin netted his first of the playoffs with four minutes remaining in the opening period.
Semin was whistled for tripping just 1:14 into the game but made up for it when, with Chara in the box for roughing, he ripped a 40-foot wrist shot through the pads of Thomas, who was making his first appearance in goal in Washington since refusing an invitation to the White House with the rest of his Stanley Cup-winning teammates.
The power-play goal snapped an 0-for-5 drought for the Capitals and marked the first time in the series that either team scored a first-period goal. The Caps had a 29-7-6 record this season (1-0 in the playoffs) when scoring the first goal of the game and the Bruins were 8-19-1 when trailing after one period.
The Bruins stormed back early in the second period, getting a goal from Peverley at the 35-second mark on a rising shot that seemed to fool Holtby, rolling off the top of his catching glove and into the net.
The Caps replied 13 seconds later when Ovechkin scored his first goal of the playoffs off a long outlet pass from Laich. Ovechkin used a burst of speed to get a step on Seidenberg and his slap shot appeared to deflect off Seidenberg's stick and past Thomas for a 2-1 lead.
The Bruins kept coming, and after failing to score on three straight power plays, Paille tied the score at 2-2 midway through the second period. Paille, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Sunday, crashed the net and backhanded Greg Zanon's point shot past Holtby for his fourth career playoff goal in 42 postseason games.
Notes: Many of the fans behind the Bruins net wore Barack Obama cutout masks in protest of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas' refusal to go to the White House earlier this season in recognition of the Bruins' Stanley Cup. . . Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin passed Washington coach Dale Hunter and moved into sole possession of second place on the club's all-time playoff goals list with 26. Ovechkin has 26 goals in 40 playoff games. Hunter had 25 goals in 100 playoff games for the Caps. ... Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik played in his 100th career playoff game. ... The Bruins are trying to become the first NHL team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the 1997 and 1998 Red Wings. . . The Bruins finished the regular season with the third-best road record in the Eastern Conference (25-15-1), while the Capitals finished third in the East with a 26-11-4 record on home ice. ... The Bruins have 19 players on their roster with Stanley Cup rings; the Capitals have two - Troy Brouwer (2010 Blackhawks) and Mike Knuble (1998 Red Wings). . . Two Bruins celebrated birthdays on Sunday. Thomas turned 38; forward Daniel Paille turned 28. ... Game 4 is slated for Thursday night in Washington.