BOSTON -- After failing to hang on to the lead twice, the Washington Capitals went ahead just late enough that there wasn't time for the Boston Bruins to put together another comeback.
Time may be short on the season as well for the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins, who are on the brink of elimination in the first round of the playoffs after the Capitals' 4-3 victory in Game 5 on Saturday.
Troy Brouwer's power play goal with 1:27 left in the third period gave Washington its third lead in the game and the Capitals were able to hang on to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
"Right now, it seems to be whoever can get a late goal is going to move on and get the win in the game," Brouwer said. "We put ourselves in a good situation going back to our building."
The series returns to Washington for Game 6 on Sunday, when the Capitals will try to avoid having to return to Boston on Wednesday for a series-deciding Game 7.
All five games have been decided by one goal, including overtime victories for both teams in the first two matches. Another round of OT appeared to be coming Saturday before Brouwer fired a shot from the right faceoff circle and sent it past goalie Tim Thomas for his second goal of the series.
"I just went down and took that shot," Brouwer said. "Our power play was struggling a little bit just before that, but guys worked hard and it was a good finish."
Washington was on the power play because of slashing called on Boston's Benoit Pouliot with 2:50 left in the third -- and with the game tied at 3-all after the Bruins had rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2.
Boston coach Claude Julien was still angry about the late call after the game, but said there was no time to dwell on it. He also noted most of his lineup has been in this predicament before: last June when the Bruins trailed a series 3-2 and strung together consecutive games to win it. And that happened to be the Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver.
"We may be in trouble, but we're not dead," Julien said.
Julien was also upset about whistles that didn't come when Bruins captain Zdeno Chara went to the ice after taking an apparent elbow to the head, then when defenseman Joe Corvo blocked a shot and struggled to get up just before Washington's Alexander Semin broke the scoreless tie with a goal midway through the second period.
"The other night they felt that the quick whistle was the thing to do and tonight they decided it wasn't on both occasions," Julien said. "Unfortunately, the winning goal, it was a very weak call in my mind and it ended up costing us."
Dennis Seidenberg and Brad Marchand scored 18 seconds apart late in the second period for Boston to tie it. Then, after Mike Knuble put the Capitals up again on a goal early in the third, Johnny Boychuk one-timed a pass from Seidenberg to tie it once again.
Alexander Semin and Jay Beagle also scored for Washington and Braden Holtby made 34 saves for the Capitals, who are the first team in the series to string together consecutive wins.
Bruins fans were still on their feet cheering for Seidenberg's goal late in the second period when Marchand got his stick on the rebound off a slap shot from Boychuk. The fans started heckling Washington's rookie goaltender and the sing-song chant returned in the third period when Boychuk scored to tie at 3-all.
Holtby regrouped and he and his teammates celebrated in front of his net before skating off the ice in the stunned silence at TD Garden, where the Bruins will host Game 7 if they can rally back and win Sunday on the Capitals' home ice.
"We don't hang our heads. We just have to focus on tomorrow's game," Chara said. "That is the biggest game of the season."
Washington needed a late run at the end of the regular season to even make the playoffs. Now the Capitals are one win away from advancing.
"We definitely had to play playoff hockey down the stretch. We were do-or-die every night pretty much. It was that close," coach Dale Hunter said. "It definitely gets these guys ready for it, but it's a lot of work on their part.
Washington never trailed Saturday, taking a 1-0 lead when Semin poked in a rebound with 8:44 left in the second. Dennis Wideman and Marcus Johansson got the assists, and then Jay Beagle put Washington ahead 2-0 when he intercepted a clearing attempt at the blue line and fired off a shot that handcuffed Thomas, glancing off his glove into the net.
The Bruins got an early power play when John Carlson was called for goaltender interference for bowling over Thomas just 2:30 into the game. Chara had the best scoring chance with a one-timer from the circle that clanged off the far post. Chara came close again in the second with a shot from the blue line that Holtby got a piece of with his glove and left pad.
Just a few minutes before, Holtby stopped a backhander from Marchand, when he used a quick burst of speed to get around the Washington defense.
NOTES: Washington's 2-0 lead was the first time in the series either team led by more than a goal. ... Washington's Nicklas Backstrom, who scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 2 to tie the series, returned from a one-game suspension for cross-checking Boston forward Rich Peverley in the face at the end of the Bruins' 4-3 win in Game 3 on Monday. ... Julien said forward Patrice Bergeron, who missed nearly the entire season a few years ago because of a concussion, took a hard hit earlier Saturday and was being evaluated after the game. Julien wasn't sure whether Bergeron would be available Sunday.