What we learned: New additions key Bruins OT win
After a five-game road trip last week leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, the Bruins returned to TD Garden Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes looking a bit different from the gang that ran the table from December to mid-February.
Departing via general manager Don Sweeney’s wheeling and dealing were Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey and Rob O’Gara to the Rangers, and Frank Vatrano to Florida. Arriving were Rick Nash and Nick Holden from New York, Tommy Wingels from Chicago and Brian Gionta — signed as a free agent after captaining the U.S. Olympic Team in Pyeongchang.
While the Bruins still have the NHL’s best record over the last three months, those numbers are skewed by a 4-4 mark in their last eight games.
Three major challenges faced the Black and Gold in their last game of February and beyond: First, they lost Patrice Bergeron for at least two weeks with a mild right-foot fracture in Saturday’s game against Toronto. Second, Bruce Cassidy is back to shuffling lines with Bergeron out and new faces in. Third, the team is on its way to facing a bear of a March schedule, with 16 games in 31 days — including four straight road contests on either side of a matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets on the 19th.
Tuesday’s game didn’t start out pretty, but Rick Nash ended as the game’s No. 1 star and Tommy Wingels the No. 2. Here’s what we learned as Boston avoided a third straight loss with a 4-3 overtime win, extending their supremacy over Carolina to 8-0-6 in the team’s last 14 meetings.
Cassidy shuffles a new deck
Riley Nash was bumped up to Bergeron’s No. 1 pivot spot between David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, while Tommy Wingels was inserted into line No. 3 alongside David Backes and Danton Heinen for his Bruins debut. The second line remained intact, with Rick Nash alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Ditto for the fourth line trio of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari.
Holden and Adam McQuaid were the healthy scratches on the back end as Cassidy opted for six defensemen. Gionta’s debut was also put on hold with a healthy scratch.
Rick Nash finished with 16:47 of ice time and a plus-1; Wingels with 15:06 and a plus-2.
“There’s no replacing [Bergeron],” Cassidy said about his first line, “but, [Riley Nash] has some of his traits, and we’ve tried to ask him to bring those traits out when he’s playing on that line. So, it’s very important.”
Nash and Wingles counter ‘Canes special teams onslaught
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 28, 2018
Each team had two power-play opportunities in the first period. Carolina came in at 23rd in the NHL on the power play, while the Bruins’ penalty kill was ranked fourth.
Those stats flip-flopped when Brock McGinn put his team up 1-0 on a second-effort rebound that found the back of the net at 10:01. A few minutes later, Pastrnak took four minutes for high sticking and Carolina once again prevailed on the power play when Teuvo Teravainen whistled a 20-footer past Tuukka Rask at 13:09.
“It’s disappointing that the power play, with our skill, that we can’t generate a little more,” Cassidy said about the special team’s performance. “The penalty kill right now is getting exposed, so we’ll look at that. But it’s been very consistent all year, so we’re hoping it’s just one of those blips we can get through very quickly.”
Carolina’s two goals were sandwiched around a DeBrusk intercept, which prevented a breakaway and resulted in a Krejci pass finding Rick Nash all alone on Scott Darling for his 19th of the season and 800th NHL point at 11:41.
“Whenever you start with a new team or a fresh season, you always want to get that first one out of the way,” Nash said. “It always seems like the hardest one to get.”
Carolina’s Sebastian Aho swooped in alone on Rask in the final minute with one deke and a backhand home at 19:04; however, in the waning seconds of the frame, Wingels played badminton with the puck before sliding it to Riley Nash, who replicated Aho’s move on Darling for his 11th of the season — a new career-high. Torey Krug also assisted.
“Nice to see [Wingels] get on the board early for us. I see Rick [Nash] get on the board,” Cassidy said postgame. “Guys get traded; they always want to get on the score sheet as quick as they can, and good for them.”
At the first intermission, total shots were only 11-9 in Boston’s favor with a 3-2 Carolina lead.
Rask and company respond after rough opening 20
“When we play as a team, we’re a good team,” Cassidy declared, “and that’s what happened from 19:58 or whatever it was.”
Tuesday marked “First Responders’ Night” at TD Garden, honoring the men and women who serve as first responders. In that spirit, the Bruins were right off the mark in the second period when DeBrusk sent a cross-slot pass to Wingels, who beat Darling with a perfect 15-foot wrist shot at 5:34 of the second period to tie the game; Charlie McAvoy also assisting. The center’s bid for the game-winner went wide with three minutes left in regulation.
“You know, you get a little nervous in that first period,” Wingels said in his first postgame media appearance in Boston. “But we turned it around and that’s hard to do when you get down 3-1 in this league… to come back from that, that shows a lot of character in a team.”
Rask pitched a shutout after allowing the trio of goals in the opening 20.
“[Tuukka] found it after the first, clearly,” Cassidy said of his goaltender. “We defended better, allowed him to see more pucks. I thought we did a good job of clearing some of those. There [were] a couple of close calls around the crease, too, so working together for one another and yeah, we get the save.”
McAvoy wins it in OT
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 28, 2018
Just over a minute into overtime, Riley Nash fed an outlet pass to McAvoy which put him 2-on-1 with Marchand in tow. Darling had no chance when the Bruins’ rookie defenseman unloaded a game-winning 15-foot rocket at 1:08.
“Riley made a real nice play in overtime,” Cassidy said. “[A] hard play, on the puck, and not only that, then to get it moving the other way. To do both was real nice for us, and Charlie obviously finishing.”