T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored, Braden Holtby made 30 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 in round-robin play Sunday to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and set up a first-round matchup against former coach Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders.
“We know their system well,” captain Alex Ovechkin said from Toronto. “It’s gonna be tight games, it’s gonna be tough games. It’s not gonna be easy.”
Boston, which won the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team during the NHL regular season that was cut short in March, lost all three of its seeding games and fell to fourth in the East. The Bruins will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round in a rematch of the 2019 East final.
“Our top line, they’ve been held off the score sheet and I believe it’s going to be a tough task for Carolina to do that on a consistent basis,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said of the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and top goal-scorer David Pastrnak. “I think that those guys will be able to get their game going, but we’re going to need that primary scoring.”
Trotz coached Washington to its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history in 2018, then left in a contract dispute. Trotz went to the Islanders, while the Capitals hired his top assistant, Todd Reirden, as head coach. This is the first time they’ve faced off in a playoff series since.
‘I think we’re building our game’
“I think it will be a hell of a series,” Trotz said. “Both teams are well-equipped to go at each other.”
Washington shook off a shootout loss to Tampa Bay and a regulation loss to Philadelphia to continue its years-long dominance of Boston. The Capitals have now won 17 of their past 19 games against the Bruins and by earning the third seed cannot play the top-seeded Flyers until the conference final.
“I think we’re building our game,” Wilson said. “We’re feeling good about it. We’ve got to keep building.”
It’s unclear whether Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson will be ready for Game 1 against the Islanders after missing the all of round-robin play with an injury. The 30-year-old defenceman went down to the ice awkwardly in Washington’s exhibition game vs. Carolina on July 29 and has practised but not played since.
Jake DeBrusk scored and Tuukka Rask made 23 saves for Boston, which also got an assist from winger Ondrej Kase in his round-robin debut.