Five from afar: Caps 5, Bruins 3

It feels like the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals are playing each other almost every game this season. That’s because the teams have faced off three times already in 2010-2011, and Friday’s 5-3 win for the Capitals against the Bruins at Verizon Center was extremely entertaining.

Boston’s play was subpar for the first 40 minutes and they fell behind by three goals. The Bruins exploded in the third period to tie the game, only to fall.

Here are five thoughts and observations after watching from afar as the Capitals defeated Bruins:

1. WHEN IT’S TIME TO CHANGE: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has played spectacular this season and entered Friday’s game with a 7-0-0 record, including a 0.72 goals-against average and a .977 save percentage. He’s dominated the Capitals this season and was playing well Friday, but he wasn’t getting any help as Washington gained a 3-0 lead after two periods. Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to change netminders and replaced Thomas with Tuukka Rask. The move made sense for a few reasons: It could (and did) give Boston a spark, and it also gave Rask some much-needed playing time. Since Boston has back-to-back games, Rask’s 20 minutes of play was a good warm-up in case he gets the start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

Boston wasn’t the only club to change its goalie. After Washington blew a three-goal lead in the third period, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Michal Neuvirth and replaced him with Branden Holtby, who made his NHL debut.

2. IF YOU SHOOT, IT'LL COME: Entering Friday’s game at Verizon Center, Thomas had a 2-0 record with a 1.00 GAA and a .973 save percentage in the first two games against Washington, so the Capitals needed to get as many shots as possible on the Bruins’ goaltender. During a scoreless first period, the Capitals outshot the Bruins, 8-3.

In the second period, Washington outshot Boston 16-6 and scored three unanswered goals. The Capitals gained a 1-0 lead when Tyler Sloan took a slap shot from the point and the puck knuckled past Thomas 59 seconds into the period.

Washington kept its pressure on in the second frame and increased its lead to 2-0 on a nifty goal by the Capitals’ Mike Green, who received a cross-ice pass from Alex Ovechkin in the offensive zone. Green slipped around an attempted block by the Bruins’ Gregory Campbell before snapping off a shot, beating Thomas to the top right corner at 7:35. It didn’t end there. The best opportunity the Bruins had to get back in the game in that period imploded when Washington capitalized on a 3-on-1 shorthanded opportunity and took a 3-0 lead on Alexander Semin’s tally.

3. NEVER SAY DIE: The Bruins’ energy line has been a major component of the team's success this season. Center Gregory Campbell, along with wingers Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton, have done it all. With the Capitals holding a 3-0 lead in the third period, the fourth line drew back-to-back penalties and allowed the Bruins a chance to capitalize on the man-advantage. Power-play goals by Michael Ryder and Nathan Horton gave the Bruins a chance in this one. Then, trailing by a goal, Thornton tied the game 3-3 at 9:51 with his second goal of the season.

4. THE GAME-CHANGER: With the game knotted at 3-3, and the faceoff to the left of Rask, Boston’s top center, David Krejci, was tossed from the dot as teammate Milan Lucic took the drop and lost it. That proved crucial because the Capitals’ John Carlson netted the game-winning goal off the faceoff at 13:25 of the third period. Washington added an empty-net goal for a 5-3 final.

5. WE MEET AGAIN, OLD FRIEND: The Bruins’ Adam McQuaid and the Capitals’ Matt Hendricks were teammates with the Providence Bruins during the 2007-08 season. Boston traded Hendricks to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Johnny Boychuk in June 2008. Hendricks signed with Washington this season, and he and McQuaid dropped the gloves in the first period Friday night. McQuaid recently replaced Boychuk, who has a fractured left forearm, in the Bruins’ lineup and he doesn’t back down from fisticuffs.

After three games on the road (2-1), the Bruins return home to host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (7:05 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.