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On This Date in Sports April 25, 2012: Seven Games of Suspense

In collaboration with theSportsecyclopedia.com

The Washington Capitals win a thrilling seven-game series against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins were the defending Stanley Cup Champions as the Capitals were trying to overcome a legacy of playoff failures. The series was the first seven-game series to see each game decided by one goal as four games went into overtime. This included Game 7 at TD Garden, with the Capitals winning on a goal by Joel Ward 2:57 into sudden death. The Capitals would go to seven games in the next series, losing to the New York Rangers. 

The Boston Bruins were at an all-time high in 2011, winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years and winning a seventh game in Vancouver. The Bruins did not have a Stanley Cup hangover, winning the Northeast Divison with a record of 49-29-4 for coach Claude Julien. In each of the two previous seasons, the Capitals were the top team in the Eastern Conference. Still, they struggled in the playoffs, suffering a first-round exit with the President's Trophy in 2010 and going down with a second-round sweep against the  Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011. The Capitals were the seventh seed in 2012, as Dale Hunter took over behind the bench in the middle of the season, with  Washington posting a record of 42-32-8.

The series began at TD Garden in Boston. The Capitals got a significant effort from rookie goalie Braden Holtby, as the Bruins' defense smothered the Capitals' offense, allowing 17 shots. The game was scoreless at the end of regulation. Chris Kelly would win the game for Boston 87 seconds into overtime. The Capitals got the first goal of the series in the second period of Game 2, as Troy Brouwer scored to give Washington a 1-0 lead. Boston tied the game in the third period on a goal by Benoit Pouliot. The game would go to double-overtime, with the Capitals winning on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom. 

At the Verizon Center in Washington, the Capitals took the lead in Game 3, with Alexander Semin scoring a goal in the first period. Rich Peverly tied the game 35 seconds into the second period. Alex Ovechkin answered 13 seconds later to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead, while Daniel Paille tied the game again at the game's midway point. In the third period, Boston took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Brian Rolston; again, the Capitals tied it on a goal by Brooks Laich with six minutes left. As each side was thinking of overtime, Zdeno Chara won the game for Boston 4-2 with a goal with 1:53 left in regulation. 

Marcus Johansson gave the Capitals an early lead in Game 4, with Peverly answering to tie the game in the first period for the Bruins. Late in the second period, Alexander Semin scored a power-play goal to give Washington a 2-1 lead that would stand as Braden Holtby made 44 saves as the Capitals squared the series with a 2-1 win. 

Back in Boston for Game 5, the Capitals had a 2-0 lead in the second period after goals by Alexander Semin and Jay Beagle. The Bruins would rally to tie the game on goals by  Dennis Seidenberg and Brad Marchand. In the third period, the teams continued to battle back and forth as Johnny Boychuck answered a goal scored by Mike Knuble. With the game tied late in regulation, Troy Brouwer scored with 87 seconds left to give the Capitals a 4-3 win and the series lead. 

The Capitals had a chance to close out the series at home in Game 6. Rich Peverly gave Boston an early lead, with Mike Green tying the game. David Krejci put Boston in front again with a power-play goal late in the first period. With 42 seconds left in the second period, Jason Chimera tied the game again for the Capitals. Andrew Ference made it 3-2 in favor of Boston midway through the third period, while Alex Ovechkin answered with the game going into overtime. In overtime, the Bruins won 4-3 on a goal by Tyler Seguin. 

In Game 7, at Boston, the Capitals struck first on a goal by Matt Hendricks, while Seguin tied the game with a goal in the second period. Both Tim Thomas and Braden Holtby were strong as the game was deadlocked 1-1 at the end of regulation.  Joel Ward scored early in overtime off a rebound to make Dale Hunter the first person to score a Game 7 overtime goal and then coach a team to a Game 7 overtime win.