Caps 4, Bruins 3

Holding leads hasn’t exactly been the Caps’ forte in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Boston. It took just 28 seconds for the Bruins to erase a 2-0 lead in the third period and the advantage from Mike Knuble’s tally lasted less than six minutes. Just like that it was 3-3, TD Garden was rocking and it appeared Washington was on the ropes.

But a penalty call whistled on Benoit Pouliot with exactly three minutes left gave the Caps one more opening. They snatched it with Troy Brouwer’s power-play goal and are now one win away from eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions with Game 6 at home at Verizon Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. Not a bad place to be.

“The one thing we don’t want to do is come back to Boston,” forward Jay Beagle said. “We’ve got an opportunity here to go home and close this out, they’re going to come out hard and we’re going to see the best we’ve seen from them all year. It’s going to be a game.”

It won’t be easy. Remember, Boston was down 2-0 in a first-round series against Montreal and rallied to win. And they were down 3-2 against Vancouver in the Stanley Cup finals before winning in Boston and then taking Game 7 on the road to stun the Canucks. That group has been here before.

Wonderful way for veteran winger Mike Knuble to celebrate his return to the lineup in Game 4 and again on Saturday. He slammed home a rebound off a Joel Ward shot. Dale Hunter liked the way that line, centered by Keith Aucoin, played on Thursday. He’ll like them even more after that. Both the third and fourth lines – Beagle, Matt Hendricks and Brouwer – had excellent shifts in the second and third periods to hem the Bruins in their own end. That effort kept the Caps in front and helped set up Brouwer’s heroics late in the game.    

“We all looked at each other on the bench as a “D” core with just kind of our eyes wide open like, 'Holy smokes, I can't believe we just scored there.' That's a huge goal,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It's so emotional, that entire game back and forth, that it's a little bit of a sigh of relief and you breathe for a second.”

Brouwer’s goal stopped cold Boston’s momentum after Johnny Boychuck’s power-play tally at 8:47 of the third tied the game yet again. The Bruins created some good chances as they tried to push one more past rookie goalie Braden Holtby. It didn’t happen and Brouwer finally sucked the life out of the Garden with his wrist shot.

“Some relief, that’s for sure. A lot of joy,” Brouwer said. “Especially late in the game like that. We were getting buzzed a little bit and I think they had a little bit of momentum off their power-play goal.”

Holtby wasn’t dominant. But he did finish with 34 saves, including a spectacular toe save on Boston’s Tyler Seguin on a backdoor pass that kept Washington in front. Maybe the first truly 10-bell save of the series for Holtby, who has been solid, but had plenty of help with his defenseman keeping Boston’s top players away from his crease. The Bruins did a better job tonight of fighting for space in front.  

“It’s just playing steady, guys are playing hard in front of him. He’s making the saves he needs to make that’s all you can ask out of your goalie,” Knuble said. “Make the saves you’re supposed to make and the odd one you’re not supposed to make too. I think we’ve been very limited in those blatant, real grade-a chances. I think we’ve done a nice job of limiting them.”

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