The Washington Capitals have poked the bear in the cage and awakened the beast with a contentious Game 3 on Monday night, but it's pointless to ask why it happened.
Given Boston's aggressive style and their in-your-face demeanor, it was inevitable Milan Lucic and the Bruins were going to force the playoff series with the Capitals from polite, mannered hockey to something just north of gladiatorial combat.
That's what Game 3 essentially amounted to as the Bruins turned every whistle into a dangerous scrum and emotional catalysts like Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand started working their side of the street. The Bruins learned a valuable playoff lesson three years ago when they lost a largely quiet seven-game series to the Carolina Hurricanes: don't ever let the other team dictate the terms of playing style of a postseason series.
So the Bruins did what they do better than any other NHL team: they fumed with raging anger and then funneled it into emotional, effective play that lifted everything in their game up a notch.
"The best players are the guys that consistently play a physical game, and then when the whistle blows they're lining up for the next face-off," said Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference. "It's an effective way to play the game. You see the sticks coming up, hits from behind or the head shots: they're going to be penalized and it doesn't matter what time of year it is. I don't think it's that fuzzy of a line.
"We have guys that are fully capable of handling themselves and playing a physical game. Every team has guys that can do that. But the thing that separates some teams from others is guys that will do it consistently and do it within the rulebook. Once in a while you might sit in a box for punching a guy after a whistle and you have to make those kills, but the best players are the ones that hardly ever get penalties while playing a physical game. Those are the guys that do well in the playoffs."
It goes without saying the Bruins have a good deal of those guys.
There is the other side of that coin, however. Nicklas Backstrom got a one-game suspension after having a late afternoon hearing with NHL Player Safety Department honcho Brendan Shanahan for a cross-check to the face of Rich Peverley late in Boston's 4-3 win Monday night. Backstrom was slapped with a match penalty, but Washington coach Dale Hunter accused the Bruins of head-hunting and "crossing the line" with concussed players like Backstrom.
"Nicky Backstrom's not that kind of player," said Hunter. "He doesn't just cross-check somebody in the face. He's not like that. Because [Peverley's] stick was there, he was protecting himself.
"It's a head, and any more, it's a serious injury. It is crossing the line. To grab his head all the time is not the right way to play."
What will become of the wild accusations and over-the-top histrionics between the two teams?
It will have to wait until Thursday night's Game 4 with two days off in between games in the nation's capital with the natives getting a little restless after a black-and-blue game that knocked them out of their comfort zone.
Back to accessibility links