Reilly Smith may have been the hero in the seventh round of the shootout Saturday night in Tampa, but he may have Johnny Boychuk to thank for that.
With the Boston Bruins inching closer to tying things up against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night, Boychuk delivered one of his trademark Johnny Rockets past Ben Bishop to tie the game at 3-3 at the 8:11 mark of the third period.
Boychuk’s third of the season came just minutes after Patrice Bergeron’s goal was disallowed thanks to the infamous “intent to blow” rule. Still, Boychuk and company were starting to feel that things were going their way after the disallowed goal.
Even after the tying goal, Boychuk wasn’t done making his statement. He ended the night with two points, including an assist on Daniel Paille’s ninth of the season at 6:58 of the second to pull the Black and Gold within one at 2-1, and was a plus-2 in 20:49 of ice time.
Additionally, Boychuk tallied a blocked shot and a hit. But that one hit was something special.
With Bolts forward Tyler Johnson flying down the ice, Boychuk kept up with the speedy rookie and broke up a quality scoring chance to keep the game tied at 3-3 with under a minute left in the final stanza. He later finished the job with a thunderous hit (no pun intended) and kept the Bruins bench energized heading into the extra session, and eventually the shootout.
“He played a solid game for us tonight,” head coach Claude Julien said about Boychuk. “That’s a big goal that he scored for us. We need that from those guys.”
With Dennis Seidenberg out the rest of the season, Boychuk, the second longest tenured Bruin on the blue-line behind team captain Zdeno Chara, has filled in nicely as the de facto No. 2 defenseman. His 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists) are already a career high and he could very well have a career high in plus/minus by the end of the year as he currently stands at a plus-31.
Its safe to say that Saturday’s performance – particularly during the third period – was just a small indicator of Boychuk’s 2013-14 campaign, which could go down as the best season in his five-year career.
“We’ve got Zdeno and we’ve got Johnny that are experienced D’s with more than a year under their belt,” Julien said. “So we need those kind of efforts from those guys.”
Julien certainly got that effort from Boychuk as he helped the Black and Gold come out on top after overcoming a two-goal deficit for the first time this season. And perhaps he can help put the B’s in first place in the Eastern Conference Sunday afternoon when they travel roughly 250 miles south to face the Florida Panthers.