BOSTON -- Silence swept TD Garden as Troy Brouwer's shot whipped past Tim Thomas and into the Boston Bruins' net to give the Washington Capitals a lead with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation of Saturday's Game Five. This wasn't the way many thought this series would go, least of all the dumbfounded, sold-out crowd.
But after five gritty, nail-bitingly close contests in this first-round NHL playoff series, Washington has pushed the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins to the brink of elimination.
Brouwer's goal stood as the game-winner and rookie goalie Braden Holtby made 34 saves in a 4-3 Capitals triumph and three-games-to-two edge in the series.
Washington returns home to Verizon Center for Game Six today with the chance to clinch a victory in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and their third trip to the second round in the past five years (3 p.m., Ch. 2 and Ch. 5).
"We're in a great spot right now. We've battled extremely hard to put ourselves here," Karl Alzner said. "I bet a lot of people probably wouldn't have thought we'd be in this position."
Washington has never knocked out a defending champion from the postseason. The Capitals know a decisive fourth victory will be the toughest one to obtain against an experienced Bruins squad.
Which is why, Capitals players insisted, the message must stay the same: Focus on the details of their defensive system, renew dedication to clearing the puck from in front of their own net, block shots and ensure that the forecheck punishes their foes. In short, do all the things that got them to this point.
Boston has stared down elimination before. The Bruins faced this exact situation last spring on their title run -- in the Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver.
"I hope we can rely on the experience from last year," Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "We have to look at ourselves. We have to come out harder, with more energy and get emotionally involved a bit quicker than we have the first few games."
A relentless cycle led to Alexander Semin's third goal in as many games to put Washington ahead 1-0 at 11:16 of the second period. Jay Beagle scored his first career playoff goal a little more than three minutes later, giving the Capitals the first two-goal lead of the series for either team.
Boston's Seidenberg and Brad Marchand scored 28 seconds apart with less than three minutes left in the second to even the score at 2. Mike Knuble put Washington ahead once more early in the third period, but Boston's Johnny Boychuck tied it for the final time with a one-time blast on the power play at 8:47.