The Boston Bruins have been anything but consistent as they chase their first playoff berth since the 2003-04 season.
That’s not news to the Washington Capitals, who’ve seen the Bruins’ best and worst in the last two weeks alone.
Fresh off a dramatic comeback that ended a three-game losing streak, the Bruins will look to damage the Capitals’ own playoff push on Sunday when they visit Washington, where they allowed 10 goals in their last visit earlier this month.
Boston had won six straight games when it visited the Verizon Center on March 3, but Washington took a 6-0 lead in the first 20 minutes and cruised to a 10-2 win.
That started the Bruins on a stretch in which they lost six of seven games, but the win was a 2-1 victory over the Capitals in Boston last Saturday.
The Bruins (37-27-8) ended their second three-game skid of March with a 3-2 overtime win over Philadelphia on Saturday. Boston trailed 2-1 with less than 30 seconds left in regulation, but Andrew Ference scored his first goal of the season with 27 seconds left, then assisted on Aaron Ward’s game-winning blast 2:17 into overtime.
Boston held onto the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the eighth-place Flyers.
“It gives us a little cushion—not much,” Ward said. “There’s no room for error, but this helps us.”
The Bruins were also helped by goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped 24 shots— most notably a breakaway in overtime by Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter. Thomas stuffed Carter’s shot, which led to the rush that produced the game-winning goal.
Thomas has now allowed two goals in consecutive games since sitting out for a week after consecutive poor performances. Thomas’ struggles began when he allowed seven goals and was pulled twice in Washington, and continued when he allowed five goals and was pulled in his next start against Toronto.
Backup Alex Auld stopped 23 shots in last week’s win over the Capitals, but Thomas had 31 saves in a 2-0 shutout of Washington on Jan. 3.
The Bruins had managed a total of just six goals in their previous six games before Saturday. They’ve played the last four without defenseman Zdeno Chara, who remains sidelined with an upper body injury.
Boston will be facing a Washington (34-30-8) defense that has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of the last 10 games, with two different goalies manning the crease. Olaf Kolzig has played the last two games, leading the Capitals to consecutive wins, but Cristobal Huet might be the starter on Sunday.
Huet had won four straight against the Bruins before last week’s loss, and has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last five starts against Boston.
The Capitals have won six of nine overall, including a 4-1 triumph over Atlanta on Friday. Washington outshot the Thrashers 37-12 in what coach Bruce Boudreau called “as complete a game as we’ve played.”
Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist in that game - his eighth straight with at least a point and third straight with at least two. He has three goals and three assists in two games against the Bruins this month.
Still, the Capitals remain four points back of the Flyers for the final playoff spot, as both teams have 10 games remaining.
“We were written off early in the season, too,” said forward Brooks Laich, who had two goals Friday. “We still believe in here. Ten games is a lot of hockey.”
This is Washington’s last home game before a six-game road trip.