The Capitals beat the Bruins for their third straight win

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Alex Ovechkin took his time collecting the disc, unfazed by the final seconds ticking away on the Capital One Arena scoreboard above him.

Ovechkin’s Washington Capital team were moments from beating the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon to claim their third straight win over an Eastern Conference opponent, so they enjoyed the final moments in one of their team’s toughest periods of the season. The captain held the ball for about three seconds before hitting the empty net 1.7 seconds before and celebrating Washington’s 4-2 victory.

“We know how well we can play, but doing it on a consistent basis has been a challenge for us since post-Christmas,” said quarterback Lars Eiler, who scored the winning goal and added an assist. “This week, we put together three really strong matches. … We have a good feeling in the room now.”

Washington (40-22-10) entered this attack after successive losses to Carolina and Minnesota, where they outperformed 11-2. The Capitals held player-only meetings entering this five-day stretch against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Bruins (45-22-5).

Washington’s toughest challenge may have come against Boston, who dropped the disc less than 24 hours later after winning 6-3 on Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The Bruins, who beat D.C. twice in January, entered Sunday after winning eight out of 10.

“The thing we’re talking about is not changing the situation,” said Jon Carlson, a defense man at Capitals. “We know flipping the switch is not an option for us. We have to feel comfortable and confident in the way we play over a long period of time to really build real confidence.”

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Carlson put Washington on the board just over four minutes into the second half with a slap shot from the right. He has three goals and five assists in his past three matches.

Boston got the result after less than three minutes. Nick Foligno reversed course when he started to curl around the Washington goal and passed to Curtis Lazar, who beat goalkeeper Vitek Vanishk. Exactly a minute later, defender Charlie McAvoy grabbed the Bruins in the spin and found Eric Hola hanging off the left wing. Vanecek watched Haula’s shot hit the left post and reach the goal.

Washington scored before the end of the period thanks to one of her most exciting players, Tom Wilson. Bruins goalkeeper Linus Olmark stopped Eiler’s shot but failed to clear the rebound. Standing just outside the tuck, Wilson tapped the ball to hit a career high with 23 goals. The 28-year-old, who scored the winning goal on Saturday, also scored career markers in points (50) and assists (27) in 68 games.

With 12:42 seconds left in the third inning, Eller’s pass from the left side overtook Howla’s sleds and bypassed Olmark to take the green light. For the first time since March 11, Eller can celebrate a goal while his teammates gather around it. Sunday also brought him his first multi-point game since December 15.

That goal was the difference, and Ovechkin added his 45th in the final seconds as a good metric. The Capitals stayed four points behind the Penguins, who also won Sunday, in third place in the capital division.

“We don’t have anywhere to dump the gas,” Carlson said. “We are in a tight race. We know that if we play like we’re at the extreme here, our season will be really short. I think it was a big thing for us to feel confident in ourselves.”

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Nicklas Backstrom’s center was scraped out of the squad 45 minutes before the ball landed due to what the team called “body maintenance”. Eiler, who played on the left wing of the fourth line in the previous two games, replaced Backstrom in the center of the second line.

Given the opportunity, he played one of his best matches this season.

“It was very satisfying, of course,” Eller said. “We had a good game, we felt really good and really happy with the way we played today.”

Conor Sherry is back in the front row after missing Saturday’s game and Friday practice due to a non-Covid illness. Replacing right winger Garnet Hathaway, who slipped to the fourth line, Sheary assisted with Carlson’s opening goal.

Having started Ilya Samsonov’s previous two games for Washington, Vanecek was on the net on Sunday as the Capitals continue to search for a player. Vanessek saved 30 balls for his second win in his past six games.

“The guys were buzzing,” Vanecek said. “They were blocking the shots. Boston tried some passes and we broke them. That was huge. That’s what we need at this time.”

Sunday was Washington’s last regular season and second in as many days. The Capitals entered the 3-4-2 weekend at the beginning of the afternoon but thrived in the latter pair.

“It’s like you eat scrambled eggs and then you have to be ready to hit someone in the nose. It’s not your normal day,” coach Peter Laviollette said before the game. “The guys do a very good job of preparing themselves.”

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