Jojo Doria - AHN Sports Contributor
Boston, MA, United States (AHN Sports) - The Washington Capitals ended the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup defense with a stunning 2-1 overtime win thanks to Joel Ward's tally 2:57 into the extra session in Wednesday night's Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at TD Garden.
It marked just the third postseason series win for Washington since a run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.
Wards, who was a playoff hero for Nashville last spring, a stellar performance that earned him a four-year, $12 million contract with the Capitals, pounded home a rebound off a Mike Knuble strike that Bruins goalie Tim Thomas stopped to give Washington the win and series victory.
The defending Cup champion Bruins, who came into this series as the second seed in the Eastern Conference after winning the Northeast Division, had a chance to salvage their campaign in the first minute of the extra period, but Patrice Bergeron failed to beat Caps red-hot rookie goaltender Brandon Holtby
The Capitals countered two minutes later, with former Bruin Knuble leading a 2 on 1 charge, crashing the net to get a backhand off Thomas.
The seventh-seeded Capitals, who barely made the playoffs after finishing atop the Eastern Conference in each of the previous two seasons, got on board 11:23 of the opening stanza courtesy of Matt Hendricks.
Holtby, a third-stringer who made his playoff debut because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, saved 31 of 32 shots as he outdueled Thomas, the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
The heads-up performance of Holtby enabled the Caps' 22-year-old backup netminder to become the fourth rookie goalie to win a Game 7 on the road in overtime. Holtby posted a 2.00 GAA along with a .940 save percentage in his first-ever playoff series.
Tyler Seguin, who helped keep the Bruins' playoff hopes alive with his gritty OT goal in Game 6, provided Boston's lone offense in Game 7, while Thomas made 25 saves in defeat.
Boston became the second straight defending champion to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago was knocked out by Vancouver last season.