Black Friday for the masses.
Among the TD Garden 17,565, across the Hub of Hockey and well beyond on a national NBC audience, however, one of Black-and-Gold.
The Boston Bruins with a few deals going into their matchup with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
One good deal: The Pens without their second-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin and two consecutive losses.
One better: Anton Khudobin, undefeated (in regulation) at 6-0-2 overall, in net for a fourth straight start after giving up but four goals in his past three wins and leading the league with a .938 save percentage, third in the NHL with a 2.13 GAA.
The best: Wednesday’s 11th round shootout win at New Jersey marked the B’s third straight win. Into last week, they had not won two straight in their previous 18.
One (important) note: the Bruins dressed seven defensemen, a first in many a game.
It’s November 24, and the local band of puck brothers are a point out of the playoffs with games in hand on all of the eight teams above them. On Black Friday, no visions of June parades, but sure better than just a week or so ago.
“Things can change in a hurry,” Bruce Cassidy said about the standings prior to the opening faceoff. “I think a week [back] we were written off to be honest. We understand where we are, how we are playing, how we need to play, the direction we are going. We feel we are a playoff team.”
Here’s what we learned as Boston twice blew two-goal leads but moved among the playoff eight with the win over Pittsburgh.
“Middle” gets B’s on the board; McAvoy shines for 2-0 lead
After a B’s power play didn’t click 32 ticks in, the second line did. Strong down the middle, the Bruins were 4-0-0 this season when both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are in the lineup. At 13:16, Peter Cehlarik intercepted a Pittsburgh clear and shoveled the puck to Jake DeBrusk. The rookie dished to Krejci who had more daylight on Matt Murphy than Friday’s sunrise.
At 10:51, Charlie McAvoy scooted off his right point along the dasher and completed a near 360-twirl before feeding Sean Kuraly with a seeing-eye pass. Daylight again for Boston’s second goal as Kuraly rifled a 15-footer past Murray for the two-goal lead.
“I think you’ll see more and more of his comfort level grow in those situations,” Cassidy said about his prized rookie. “And you’ll see more points come because of it and I think that’s just Charlie.”
“Just trying to read the game well,” added McAvoy. “Trying to take what is there for me. I saw the play unfold out there and Sean Kuraly had slid into a quiet area and good for him to get it on his stick. He buried it.”
Bruins outshooting Pens, 14-4, after 20 minutes – one of their best periods of the season.
Then a collapse in the second; Grzelcyk scores first NHL goal
“Definitely their push,” Cassidy summed after about the opposite 20 minutes of play that unfolded. “They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions, times two, so they’re going to come back at you. They did. We expected that. And then part of us, I think we’ve been consistently inconsistent for stretches of games, and that just happened to be the second period tonight. We’re hoping to get that down less and less.”
The Penguins’ fourth-best power play went to work with Jake Guentzel replicating the Krejci goal, taking a Sidney Crosby pass to daylight past Khudobin at 1:02.
That aforementioned seventh defenseman was Matt Grzelcyk. When Kevan Miller fanned on a shot from the point, Grzelcyk was positioned in the left faceoff circle. His shot off Murray’s catching glove regained the two-goal lead while becoming the seventh Bruin this season to score his first NHL goal.
“I don’t think it’s really settled in yet,” the Charlestown native and former BU captain said. “It was pretty cool to score in this building obviously.”
The lead was back to one when Phil Kessel sent the boo birds to flight at 14:07; his team-leading ninth of the season whistling to top-shelf twine.
Wednesday night, the Bruins blew a two-goal lead in Jersey. That happened again for the second time Friday at 17:44 when Crosby scored one of the most unusual goals of his career off confusion in the crease. Khudobin on his back and the puck lying on his spoked-B, Crosby flicked it off like a bug for the tying goal.
And surviving a goaltender interference challenge by Cassidy.
“He hit me with the stick a little bit,” Khudobin said, “but I don’t think it was a goalie interference.”
“We knew that it was probably a long shot,” Cassidy added about the challenge not going his way.
Pasta saves indigestion
A streaking David Pastrnak went breakaway from center ice off a Riley Nash pass to beat Murray glove-side high for the game-winner; ‘Pasta’s’ team-leading 11th at 5:06 of the third period with Ryan Spooner also assisting.
“You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions,” Cassidy said. “Everyone is watching, let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it, and I think they felt the same way coming out.”
On Black Friday with the reality of that Thanksgiving playoff stat, the Boston Bruins are a playoff team – for now.