Bruins top Capitals, endorse 3-on-3 overtime

BOSTON -- It took only 12 seconds to prove the NHL’s new overtime format was the right decision.

The idea that 3-on-3 would be more exciting and cut down on dreaded shootouts was well-received by the league, teams, players and fans before the NHL’s board of governors approved the new format in June. It was a no-brainer to bury the existing 4-on-4.

The new brand of OT hockey was on display when the Boston Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 Tuesday at TD Garden.

The Bruins’ quickly gained a 2-on-1 when David Krejci fed David Pastrnak, who blasted a one-timer past Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer for the win.

The NHL is testing the new format in select games this preseason. No matter the score at the end of regulation Tuesday, this game was to showcase the highly anticipated 3-on-3.

It did not disappoint.

“That 3-on-3 is a whole new monster this year,” the Capitals’ Nate Schmidt said.

The Bruins certainly welcome the new format. Boston was 4-10 in shootouts last season, and coach Claude Julien and goaltender Tuukka Rask have said numerous times how much they dislike the shootout.

“I’ve been pretty vocal about it: I hate shootouts,” Julien said. “I hate an individual deciding a team game.”

Julien is excited about the new format and believes most games that reach overtime will be decided before the shootout. Julien typically had three forwards and one defenseman play in the old 4-on-4. He said he will go with three forwards in the new OT format.

“The 3-on-3 is definitely going to resolve what I guess a lot of people secretly hope for, [which] is less shootouts and hopefully more team decision-making on the outcome of games,” Julien said.

Julien and Capitals coach Barry Trotz admitted they are spending plenty of time working on the 3-on-3 in training camp and the preseason schedule. Their teams are working on it in practice and watching film to try to figure out how to be effective in the new format.

The idea is puck possession. Knowing when to change and where to put the puck will be key to a team’s success in the 3-on-3. The other trick will be to keep the puck away from the opposing goaltender while attempting a change or dump-in, given that goalies can handle the puck well and easily make a stretch pass to send a player in on a breakaway or an odd-man rush.

"It's definitely going to be interesting to see," Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. "There's going to be a lot of ice and room on the ice. It's about being smart and trying to balance the offense but also having some guys back, because someone's going to miss coverage; and we'll see a lot of odd-man situations. We have to make sure to work on our breakaways and 2-on-1s, make sure you make [your opponent] pay, because if you don't, it's going to be back and forth."

Despite the outcome of their second preseason game, the Capitals were just as enthusiastic about the 3-on-3. Unfortunately for Washington, the Bruins controlled the entire 12 seconds before Pastrnak scored the winning goal.

“When you don’t have the puck, you’ve got to be good defensively,” Trotz said. “When you have the puck, you’ve got to manage it right and look for those windows, and we haven’t quite learned that yet. We’re thinking, 'It’s 3-on-3, so let’s go score.' But if you don’t have the puck, you’re going to let them score if you don’t manage the defensive part of it, and defensive part is angling and using your skill and making sure they don’t outnumber you in any situation.”

The Capitals have tried different things in practice, but all the work has been on the offensive side, according to the coach.

“We’re giving up a goal because our minds are always on the offensive part of it, and we’ve got to get a balance,” Trotz said. “It’s not that you’re going to sit back and play defense. It’s about when you have the puck, what to do with it ... and when you don’t, what to do with it and how to defend it. We haven’t figured that part out yet, but we will.”

Former Edmonton Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr holds the single-season record for assists, with 14 in the 1983-84 season. With this new overtime format, it’s possible a current netminder could come close to that number.

"With the changes, goalies will play a huge part in transition, making long passes, and it could generate a few more assists for goalies,” Bergeron said.

After Tuesday’s game, the Bruins were happy with the end result. Defenseman Torey Krug registered the secondary assist on the winner.

“If we can limit it to 12 seconds every game, I’ll be happy,” he said.