The Capitals are winless in the 2020 postseason no more. Washington defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Sunday for their lone win in the round robin off of goals from T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson. The win secures third place for Washington and a first-round matchup with the New York Islanders.
Here is why the Caps won.
The penalty kill
The penalty kill was not tested nearly as much on Sunday as it was in Washington's game on Thursday, but it remained perfect as it killed off both of the Bruins' power plays on the day while allowing only one shot on goal.
In what has been largely a lackluster showing for Washington through the round robin, the penalty kill has been among the few bright spots and was a perfect 8 for 8 through three games.
Washington's best player through the round robin has been its netminder and that remained the case on Sunday. Holtby turned aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced for another strong performance in net. He was beaten only by Jake DeBrusk who caught Holtby by surprise by some fancy footwork to adjust to fire a quick shot on net.
Boston had a golden opportunity to tie the game at 1 in the second period as Charlie McAvoy cut through the middle for a 1-on-1 chance, but Holtby calmly stared him down and plucked the wrister out of the air with the glove.
Offensively, this was not a great game for the Caps. The team managed only two shots on goal through the first period. The offense was better as the game went along, finishing with 25 for the game, but there was not much to speak of early on. Still, it wasn't as if the Bruins were skating circles around them either.
Thursday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers was a pretty bad one in terms of team defense. The Flyers scored one goal off a turnover and two more off of defensive breakdowns. Washington's team defense was much improved on Sunday in what was a very conservative game.
Now, obviously the team has to find more of a balance -- you can't fire only two shots on goal in a period and hope to win many of those games -- but with defense being one of the team's major weaknesses heading into the playoffs, Sunday's game was certainly a step in the right direction.
Washington's performance in the first period was not encouraging. The team had only one shot on goal late in the period, but Oshie had a golden opportunity late with a nice steal from McAvoy. Oshie saw McAvoy pinch in the offensive zone so he charged, chipped away the puck and launched a 2-on-1 in the other direction. Oshie carried the puck and called his own number, but missed the shot badly. It looked like he was trying to hit the corner, but missed by a good foot.
Oshie redeemed himself later in the period, however, as he beat Zdeno Chara to the puck on the doorstep and shot it home to give Washington the 1-0 lead. It was the Caps' second shot on goal of the period and it came in the final minute.
Wilson justifies Pastrnak's tweet
On July 28, David Pastrnak sent out a bizarre tweet declaring that Wilson was the best scorer in the league. I don't know about the entire league, but he was the best goal-scorer on Sunday with his insurance tally in the third period.
As Ilya Kovalchuk cleared the puck out of the defensive zone, Wilson sprinted down the ice to beat two Bruins and he claimed the puck behind the defense. He pulled the puck backhand to forehand and fired a quick shot off the post and into the top shelf. Goalie Tuukka Rask probably wishes he came out of the net to collect that puck, but he didn't and Wilson took advantage with a really nice looking goal.
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