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The Boston Bruins have the most goals scored of any team in the third period by a wide margin, but even more impressive is that they have allowed fewer goals in that final frame than any other.

Bruins' goalie Chad Johnson makes one of his 33 stops
What does this mean?  Standing alone it could indicate many things, but when coupled with the fact that the Bruins allow the least number of opening period goals and are into the top 10 in the middle frame, it means that they have the league's top rated defense and get absolutely filthy goaltending.

Really doesn't matter who's in net, either, as both Tuukka Rask and Chad Johnson together are probably the best one-two punch between the pipes in all of hockey - so any Washington Capitals' fan that thought they were catching a break drawing Johnson in Saturday afternoon's matinee against the Bruins were apt to leave the Verizon Center disappointed.

And they did.

For a while on Saturday afternoon, Caps' goalie Braden Holtby matched Johnson's mastery against several point-blank Bruins' chances, the sole reason that the teams went into the room sharing a scoreless tie at the first intermission as the defense in front of him was slowly eroding...

...completely crumbling apart shortly into the second, a Jarome Iginla breakaway goal less than three minutes in triggering an avalanche of pucks into the Capitals' net as the hard-working Bruins outclassed a devil-may-care Washington squad 4-2 to clinch the Atlantic Division title.

Iginla potted a second goal later in the period, just 41 seconds after a Carl Soderberg redirection of a Patrice Bergeron power play drive got past Holtby - the Bruins scoring three goals in a five-and-a-half minute span of the middle frame, then spending the remainder of the period shoving the sluggish Caps around and using Holtby for target practice.

Soderberg had two helpers in addition to his goal, the first a heads-up play on the puck in the neutral zone after exiting the penalty box early in the second, winning a race to the puck on the opposite side of the ice and centering a pass to Iginla, who had split the Capitals' defensemen at the blue line and raced in unopposed for his 29th goal of the season...

...his second an attempt to redirect a Dougie Hamilton drive on the man-advantage in the third that instead slid right to a charging Bergeron who neatly tucked the biscuit in behind Holtby.

In between the two was his successful redirect and Iginla's tremendous effort for his 30th of the year, a textbook follow of his own shot from the right circle, the puck bounding into the high slot off of Milan Lucic's stick and Iginla snapping a shot through Hotby's pads.

The Capitals' did show some life toward the end of the second period - perhaps aware of the Bruins' stifling dominance in the final 20 minutes - and managed to push a rebound past Johnson with 10 seconds left in the frame to close the gap to two goals, but it wasn't nearly enough against Boston's collectively aggressive shut-down skill...

...Jason Chimera's goal at the end of the second was more a matter of Chimera being in position to take advantage of a rare Bruins' miscue, Boston blue liner Johnny Boychuk trying to tip a rebound toward Johnson to freeze the puck against a heavy Capital's crush on the goal, but the puck popped up in the air and the Caps' opportunistic left wing trickled the puck past Johnson.

The Chimera goal at the end of the second period seemed to energize the Capitals coming out of the room for the third, finding an extra gear and operating in the attacking zone - yet the Boston defense stayed true and disciplined...

...and when Washington's frustrated scoring machine Alex Ovechkin lined up an open-ice cheap shot on Boston's Loui Eriksson to take a charging call, the ice leveled out again and Patrice Bergeron's power play tip in made it 4-1, the Caps' compete level trickled down to nothing.

Even Washington's goal in the final minute resulted from a bad Boston error, this one by Johnson who stepped out of the crease to play a puck sliding in from the left wing, but Johnson could neither clear the puck nor get back to the crease before Evgeny Kuznetsov planted a tight angle shot to make the score look a little more respectable.

With the win, the Bruins tied a franchise record of eight consecutive road victories and for the moment have leap-frogged the St. Louis Blues in the race for the President's Cup - and Iginla's two goals tied him for 24th with Montreal's Guy LaFleur for goals in NHL history and gave him 30 goals for the 12th time in his 20 year career.

The Capitals missed an opportunity to climb into one of the Eastern Conference's two wildcard playoff spots, but instead remain tied with four other teams with 80 points, but still on the outside looking in as both Columbus and Detroit hold the tie-breaker with more regulation and overtime wins.

Both teams have a quick turnaround, the Caps hitting the trail to Nashville and the Bruins traveling to Philadelphia for Sunday tilts.

Michael Hamm 3/29/2014 04:16:00 PM Edit

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