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How the Capitals lost their first-round series to the Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

For the third season in a row, the Capitals season has ended in the first round of the playoffs. The Caps fell 3-1 in Game 5 to the Boston Bruins on Sunday, giving the Bruins a 4-1 series win and bringing a close to Peter Laviolette’s first season behind the bench in Washington.

Here is how the Caps lost the series.

5-on-5 offense

Tuukka Rask was very good in goal for Boston, but the Caps simply did not do enough to make life uncomfortable for the Bruins netminder. Washington struggled to carry the puck through the neutral zone, did not get enough traffic in front of Rask and, most critically, the Caps’ star players simply did not deliver the way we have come to expect.

In five playoff games, Washington scored only seven 5-on-5 goals and four of them came from the fourth line. Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway each scored twice.

Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha were all held without a single 5-on-5 goal while Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson all failed to record a single 5-on-5 point.

When Conor Sheary scored in Game 5, it snapped a 5-on-5 goal drought of 147 minutes, 44 seconds for Washington. That just was never going to be good enough. 

Several Bruins players had a very good series, but Marchand makes this list specifically because he delivered at crucial moments.

Marchand scored the overtime winner in Game 2, he scored the game-tying third-period goal to force overtime in Game 3, and he broke the scoreless tie in Game 4 with his second-period tally.

As much as Caps fans may cringe at the thought, no one was as clutch for his team in this series as Marchand.

Third-period leads

It may have been a short series, but in the first three games it looked like we were looking at a barnburner. The Caps had a chance to win each of those games, but only won Game 1 and that now looms large after the dropping the series, especially considering Washington had a third-period lead in both Games 2 and 3.

In Game 2, Garnet Hathaway scored on a 2-on-1 midway through the third to make it 3-2. Taylor Hall, however, would tie the game with less than three minutes left to go in regulation. In Game 3, Washington entered the third with a 2-1 lead, but Marchand would score on the power play to tie it up with less than nine minutes remaining. This is a very different series if the Caps could have protected a third-period lead in either of those games.

Samsonov’s double-overtime mistake

When Samsonov finally got into the net in Game 3, he was fantastic. He played fairly well in each of his three starts and showed flashes of being the No. 1 goalie he was expected to be coming into the season. Unfortunately, the only thing most will remember of Samsonov in this series is his double-overtime gaffe in Game 3.

Samsonov retrieved the puck behind the net, with defenseman Justin Schultz coming back to assist. The two were not on the same page, however, as Samsonov left the puck behind the net while Schultz peeled off looking for the puck to be sent along the boards. That allowed Craig Smith to sneak in, grab the puck and tuck it into the net on the wraparound for the Bruins win.

Special teams

For the series, Boston’s power play scored at 26.3%. The Caps power play, meanwhile, was 14.3%. That’s not good.

Over the course of five games, that only translated to a 5-3 advantage for the Bruins in terms of power-play goals, but the larger issue is that Boston’s power play delivered at critical moments while the Caps did not.

Nick Ritchie tied Game 1 at 2, Marchand forced overtime in Game 3 and Marchand and David Pastrnak built a 2-0 lead in Game 4 all on the power play. Meanwhile, the Caps were staring down the barrel of a 3-1 series deficit in Game 4 and the power play let them down going just 1-for-7 in that game.

The third period of Game 4

Game 4 was easily Washington’s worst of the series, but the third period was really when the series fell apart.

Down 1-0 and staring at a 3-1 series deficit, the Caps faced the most important period of the season. Just 63 seconds into that period, Washington’s deficit increased to 3-0 as David Pastrnak scored on the power play and Charlie Coyle tallied 34 seconds later.

That was the series knockout punch. Washington never recovered and now will have a long summer to figure out how to get back to the Stanley Cup playoffs again given the upcoming expansion draft, Alex Ovechkin’s contract needs and inevitable roster turnover.