WASHINGTON (AP) — If the Boston Bruins miss the playoffs, they may dwell on their inability to score against Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby this season.
Right now they don’t have the time.
Holtby made 27 saves while shutting out the Bruins for the third time this season, Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist and the Capitals defeated the Bruins 3-0 on Wednesday night.
“You know, who cares,” Boston’s David Krejci said when asked about Holtby. “I mean he’s a good goalie, but right now we have less than 24 hours to get ready for the next one. The biggest game of the season. Controlling our own fate. Just forget about this one and move on.”
Boston, which had won five straight, still holds the second Eastern Conference wild card with 95 points. Both the Bruins and the Ottawa Senators (95 points) have two games remaining, and Boston has two more regulation and overtime wins.
The Bruins play at Florida on Thursday before finishing at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Holtby, who earned his 41st win of the season to match the franchise record set by Olie Kolzig in 1999-00, also blanked the Bruins 4-0 in Boston on Oct. 11 and 2-0 at home on March 14.
“When we play against them it just kind of gives us a little extra jump knowing we can’t give them anything,” Holtby said.
His nine shutouts this season equal the franchise record set by Jim Carey in 1995-96 and also tie Montreal’s Carey Price and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury for the league lead this season.
“It’s fun to see him play, and he’s bailing us out when we have to (have it),” Johansson said of Holtby.
The previous goalie to record three shutouts in a single season against the same opponent was Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes against the San Jose Sharks in 2011-12, according to STATS.
John Carlson and Matt Niskanen also scored for Washington, which leads the Islanders by three points for second place in the Metropolitan Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. New York has one game in hand.
Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer each had two assists for the Capitals, who have won nine of 12.
Tuukka Rask stopped 30 shots for Boston, which suffered the first scoreless sweep (in a season series of two or more games) in its history.
Preserving a 2-0 lead, Holtby made a series of strong saves in the second period.
Near the six-minute mark, he stopped Loui Eriksson on a breakaway, and four minutes later he stopped Milan Lucic, who tried to go between the pads on another breakaway.
Later in the period, Holtby lost his stick for 15-20 seconds following a collision. Boston couldn’t take advantage as he stopped its only shot of that stretch with his chest.
“We made some poor decisions, gave up some odd-man rushes and it was the Braden Holtby show for a few really important saves,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “You talk about key saves in key moments of the game, that was him.”
Washington took a 1-0 lead at 4:49 of the first when Backstrom passed across ice to Carlson, who fired over Rask’s shoulder for his 12th of the season.
The Capitals made it 2-0 at 7:06 when Niskanen’s blast from the point deflected off the stick of Bruins defenseman Zach Trotman and past Rask.
“I thought we played on our heels in that first period,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We stood back instead of doing a little bit more of what we started doing in the second period, but if you dig yourself a 2-0 hole against this team it’s hard to come back.”
The Capitals made it 3-0 at 17:47 of the second on Johansson’s 20th of the season.
NOTES: Washington swept the season series for the first time since 1982-83. … Rask has played in 68 games with two remaining. The team record (70) is shared by three men, most recently Eddie Johnston in 1963-64. . RW Stanislav Galiev, a third-round pick by Washington in the 2010 draft, made his NHL debut. . The Capitals were without C Eric Fehr (upper body injury), RW Jay Beagle (upper body) and RW Tom Wilson (upper body). … Boston D Dougie Hamilton (undisclosed) missed his 11th game.
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