First-place Washington Capitals cruise to win, as Zdeno Chara plays in front of Boston Bruins' fans for first time since his departure

BOSTON -- T.J. Oshie scored one of his two goals in the Washington Capitals' three-goal first period, and former Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara played his first game in front of Boston's fans in the Capitals' 8-1 victory Sunday night.

Conor Sheary and Lars Eller each also scored twice, and Tom Wilson and Nic Dowd each had one of the season-high goals scored by the Capitals in their first victory in regulation against Boston this season. The Bruins had gotten at least a point in the clubs' five previous meetings (3-0-2).

Rookie Vitek Vanecek stopped 34 shots but lost a chance for his second shutout when Craig Smith scored a power-play goal 3 minutes into the third.

"I definitely think it's important to get that playoff feel moving forward," Sheary said. "We want to play these important games this time of year. You don't want to be, maybe it sounds bad, but you don't want to be too far ahead, where you're kind of coasting into playoffs."

Washington is tied with the New York Islanders for first in the NHL's East Division. The Islanders outlasted the New York Rangers Sunday night in overtime.

The Bruins played a video tribute for Chara on the video board midway into the opening period, with Washington already leading 2-0. He got a standing ovation from the TD Garden crowd, which was limited by the state to 12% capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Skating near his bench, Chara appeared touched, raising his stick and clapping back to the crowd before patting his chest with his left glove and waving.

The 44-year-old Chara was the Bruins' captain for his 14 seasons with the club. He helped them win the 2011 Stanley Cup and was a key part of its runner-up teams in 2013 and 2019.

After all the players left the ice when the game was over, he skated out, waved and went to a corner, pointing up to the seats.

Chara, who signed a one-year deal with Washington in the offseason, said on a Zoom interview after the morning skate that his wife and three children, who still live in Boston, were expected to be at the game.

"It was great for him to have that for the fans," Boston captain Patrice Bergeron said. "I know it's only 12% capacity, but he deserves that. I know he's done so much for the organization."

Washington jumped ahead 3-0 in the opening half of the first period, starting when Oshie one-timed Nicklas Backstrom's pass into the net from the slot for a power-play goal at 7:33.

Just 16 seconds later, Eller took a pass from Carl Hagelin, cut around Boston defenseman Jarred Tinordi and flipped a shot over Dan Vladar's glove.

"We wanted to make sure we had a good 60 minutes," Wilson said. "I know it's a cliché, but it was pretty good tonight, and we got the job done."

Sheary scored on a 3-on-2 break to make it 3-0 at 9:42. He also scored off a rebound for a power-play goal early in the second.

"I don't think these games are helpful for anyone unless your team was arrogant and winning all the time and needed to be taken down a notch," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "It was a tough one for Dan, but a lot of guys in front of him could have done a better job battling through it."

The Bruins were missing four of their top defensemen. Charlie McAvoy (third straight game), Matt Grzelcyk (injured Saturday) and Brandon Carlo (fifth straight) are each out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Kevan Miller, working back from offseason knee surgery, didn't play because it was a consecutive day of games.

The Bruins announced after the contest they had replenished some depth on their banged-up blue line by trading a 2022 third-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Mike Reilly.

The 27-year-old left-shooting defenseman has 19 assists in 40 games this season with the Senators.

The NHL's trade deadline is on Monday. The Bruins, despite losses on both days this weekend, are still in the No. 4 playoff position in the East Division and could look to bolster their depth further.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.