WASHINGTON, DC —Tyler Seguin had been shut down for five games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, failing to tally a point against the Washington Capitals. But when the Boston Bruins needed an offensive hero, Seguin handed them Game 7 with two outstanding individual efforts on Sunday evening.
And why not a Game 7, for one of the tightest series in NHL history?
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is first time in NHL history that six straight games in a playoff series have been decided by one goal each. (Keep in mind that Chicago and Phoenix could match that figure as they enter Game 6.)
“I was hoping it was destined to go seven, because we were the ones down 3-2,” said goalie Tim Thomas, who made 36 saves.
Seguin’s goal at 3:17 of overtime gave the Bruins a 4-3 victory at the Washington Capitals — the sixth time these teams have played a one-goal game. Earlier, Seguin made a key defensive play that led to Andrew Ference’s third-period goal, which gave the Bruins the lead before Alex Ovechkin knotted it just over three minutes later.
“They’ve done a great job defending him,” said Ference. “It’s nice to see when you finally do get a hole and have a breakdown, he’s money.”
Seguin said he wasn’t frustrated by the lack of results against the Capitals.
“I don’t know if ‘frustrated’ is the word I’d use. It’s just about being more determined. You know you’re not going to get bounces every game, and I still want to do the little things right. I still want to be good in my ‘D’ zone and create opportunities,” he said.
The winning goal started with a Bruins interception of Nicklas Backstrom’s outlet pass. David Krejci, who had a strong game, moved it to Milan Lucic on the left wing. Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman left the middle of the ice wide open for Seguin to receive a pass; he deked goalie Braden Holtby (27 saves) and scored the game-winner around him.
“If you look back, in the second period I had a play [that was] similar and [Holtby] did get it. When I passed to [Zdeno Chara] in overtime, he came out far. When I had an opportunity, in kind of a split second decision, I looked for a shot and he came out on one fake, so I just went around him,” said Seguin.
The Ference goal started on a play that tipped in the Caps’ favor. Marcus Johansson made a great strip on Krejci to give Washington an offensive chance. Moments later, it was Seguin with the strip on Alex Semin, as the young Bruins winger streaked down the right wing. He sent a hard shot off of Holtby’s mask, there was a scramble in front, and then Ference stepped up and fired home the puck into a gaping net for the 3-2 lead.
“You won’t believe me, but when I was going down the wing, the first thing that came to my mind was to pass, and then to shoot it off his head,” Seguin said. “For me, it hasn’t been working. So I figured I’d try to shoot high.”
The Bruins took the early lead when Ference blasted a shot from the top of the zone that was deflected home by Rich Peverley as Boston double-screened Holtby at 5:56 of the first.
Mike Green of the Capitals answered that goal at 9:47, patiently waiting for a shooting lane to open before firing the puck off defenseman Greg Zanon’s skate.
David Krejci gave the Bruins the lead at 16:48 of the first, their second power-play goal in as many games. Patrice Bergeron picked Matt Hendricks at the top of the zone, helping Krejci spring free to the net. Milan Lucic found him for the open tip home to beat Holtby.
The second period was eventful: Alex Ovechkin picked up a double-minor for a high stick on Zdeno Chara, and the Bruins only collected one shot on the power play. (Recall there was a high stick to Chara in Game 3 that went uncalled.) Thomas made a brilliant paddle stop on Marcus Johansson near the post with just over 9 minutes left in the period. The Capitals were given a power play on a Patrice Bergeron high-sticking despite having seven skates on the ice.
Jason Chimera and Brad Marchand collided in the Capitals zone. While Marchand was down, his face having hit the ice, play went down the other way, with Nicklas Backstrom perfectly placing a pass to Chimera for the equalizer.
After Ference scored in the third to give Boston the lead, the Capitals’ captain struck back.
After missing some golden chances throughout the game with Thomas scrambling, Alex Ovechkin beat him while the Bruins goalie was set and ready. Ovechkin took a Nicklas Backstrom faceoff win, kicked it from skate to stick and then fired it through Tim Thomas’s five hole at 15:08 to tie the game 3-3.
That sent the game to overtime, where Seguin ended it.
For the second straight postseason, Seguin rose to the occasion when the Bruins needed him. In Games 1 and 2 against the Tampa Bay Lighting in last year’s Eastern Conference Final, he cushioned the blow of losing Patrice Bergeron to injury with six points in two games, including a 4-point effort in a Game 2 win.
In Game 6 against the Capitals, Seguin wasn’t that dominant. He just picked his spots and made it count. And now, this dramatic series goes to seven.
“Game 7’s are exciting games because it’s do or die for both teams,” said Capitals coach Dale Hunter, “and they’re awesome to play in.”
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