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Game 4 observations: Elite special teams powering Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — After a very tight start to the series that featured three overtime games, the Bruins pushed the Capitals to the brink of elimination with dominant 4-1 victory in Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff matchup Friday night.

The Bruins were the better team through the night, earning a 41-32 edge in shot attempts, a 29-11 lead in shots on net, a 21-11 margin in scoring chances and a 9-1 advantage in high-danger chances — all during 5-on-5 action.

Boston’s special teams also made a major impact (more on that below).

Bruins make Capitals pay for Orlov’s high hit on Miller

What helped the Bruins earn a convincing Game 4 win? Here are three observations.

1) Bruins’ special teams shine

The Bruins completely dominated on special teams in Game 4 and it was the primary reason they won.

One of the advantages the Capitals had entering this series was a superior power play. Any unit with Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie is going to be tough to defend, and it’s among the reasons why Washington’s power play had the third-best success rate (24.8 percent) during the regular season.

It hasn’t been a huge weapon so far in this series, and it certainly wasn’t in Game 4. 

The Bruins penalty kill was successful on six of the seven Capitals power-play opportunities. Boston’s PK also limited the Capitals to just six shots on net and five scoring chances in 10:38 of power-play ice time. That’s pretty impressive.

B’s defenseman Connor Clifton was particularly effective on the penalty kill, most notably during a sequence in the second period when he blocked two thunderous Ovechkin shots, which drew a fired up reaction from teammates.

The Bruins also scored three power-play goals, bringing their tally to five in 16 opportunities (31.3 percent) through four games. 

If the Capitals are going to mount a comeback in this series, their power play must show massive improvement in a hurry. They are not good enough at 5-on-5 to beat the Bruins three times in the next four games.

Pastrnak is off and running.

The superstar right winger was held without a goal through the first three games of the series but finally broke through with a power-play tally early in the third period. He beat Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov with a snipe from inside the faceoff circle.

Pastrnak failing to score before Game 4 wasn’t from a lack of looks at the net.

He led the B’s with 35 shot attempts, 19 shots on net, 18 scoring chances and eight high-danger attempts in the series entering Friday. In Game 3 alone, Pastrnak had a team-leading 17 shot attempts and nine shots on goal, including a great scoring chance in the double overtime period.

Game 4 featured a similar script for Pastrnak, but this time his effort was rewarded. He led the B’s with 10 shot attempts, six shots on net and five scoring chances, in addition to his goal. 

The 24-year-old forward is an elite goal scorer who won the Rocket Richard Trophy last season. Few players in the world are more dangerous offensively.  He’s too talented to keep off the scoreboard for very long, and after a stellar Game 4, it wouldn’t be surprising if the floodgates open a bit for Pastrnak going forward.

3) Tuukka Rask strong in net

Rask didn’t have to win the game for the Bruins, but he did a nice job keeping the Capitals off the board before Boston broke the game open early in the third period.

The 34-year-old goalie made 19 saves on 20 shots, improving his save percentage to an impressive .930 for the series. Rask’s rebound control also was excellent in Game 4, which is important versus a Capitals team that makes a strong effort to crash the net.

The veteran netminder also made history Friday with the 54th win of his playoff career, which moves him past B’s legend Gerry Cheevers for the most by a goalie in team history.