BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Bruins lost their chance at home-ice advantage through the Eastern Conference Finals.
And, if Joe Thornton’s injury is at all serious, they may have lost any chance of getting there, too.
Thornton assisted on a game-tying goal and then left the game with an injury while the Bruins held on to tie the Washington Capitals 3-3 Thursday night. The Bruins could still tie Tampa Bay for first place in the East, but the Lightning would win the tiebreaker.
“We’ve been eyeing the top seed in the conference the last few months,” Boston forward Travis Green said. “It’s disappointing.”
Not as disappointing as losing Thornton for the end of the game and overtime and who knows how much longer. He was slashed on the right wrist by Todd Rohloff as he crashed the net 3:25 into the third period and fell backward, hitting the ice hard.
Thornton left the ice with a trainer but came back for another shift and threaded a cross-ice pass to Glen Murray to set up a goal that made it 2-2 at the 5:23 mark. A few minutes later, Thornton left the bench and did not return.
Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said Thornton had an “upper body injury.” No other details were available, and Thornton was not available for comment after the game.
“You don’t want to see Joe Thornton crash the net and get up slowly in the third period,” forward Sergei Samsonov said. “It’s unfortunate.”
The loss of their captain and leading scorer could be more important than the point for Boston, which holds the second playoff seed but could finish as low as sixth. The Bruins have 102 points with two games remaining; first-place Tampa Bay, which has one game left, beat Florida 4-3 on Thursday to clinch the top seed with 106 points.
Andrew Raycroft stopped 24 shots for the Bruins, who played their 30th overtime game of the season to extend their NHL record. Dan McGillis had a goal and an assist and Nick Boynton also scored for Boston.
“We’ve played a lot of big games lately, and then Washington comes in. It’s tough to get up for those teams,” Raycroft said of the 14th-place Capitals. “We know it’s important. But, mentally, some days you don’t want to get up and go to work. That’s the best way to think about it.”
Olaf Kolzig made 35 saves for Washington, which had lost seven consecutive road games. The Capitals have the most losses in the NHL this season but they remained unbeaten (20-0-3) when leading after two periods.
“Every game has an impact on something,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “I told the guys, ‘You never know when you’ll need a favor from somebody else.”’
Boston fell behind 2-1 before tying it on Murray’s goal. Just 84 seconds later, McGillis took a puck at the left boards and flung it toward the net; it hit the inside of Kolzig’s right skate and deflected through his legs and into the net to give Boston a 3-2 lead.
The Bruins started slowly and didn’t get a shot on goal until midway through the first period.
With Boumedienne off for holding early in the second period, Boston put some sustained pressure on Kolzig for the first time in the game. After a series of misses, the puck came out to the McGillis at the point, and he slid it over to Boynton in the middle.
Kolzig was screened and apparently never saw the puck as it floated over his left shoulder into the top corner of the net 5:52 into the period.
The Capitals tied it 2:56 later when Brendan Witt took a feed as he came across the blue line and beat Raycroft.
Washington took the lead when Brian Rolston whiffed on the puck in the Bruins zone and Kip Miller took it, passed it ahead to Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre.He beat a surprised Raycroft for his third goal of the season.
Raycroft received the Seventh Player Award before the game for exceeding expectations. … The Bruins have the fewest losses in the NHL, and the Capitals have the most. … By the time the Bruins got off their first shotof the game, there had already been two minor fights.