What we learned: Wounded B’s shine again in final 20
It sounds cliche given their success this year, but it bears repeating: there’s no quit in the Boston Bruins.
Down 2-0 in Dallas Friday night, the injury-plagued Bruins sparked another comeback in the final 20 against a desperate Stars squad. Instead of walking out with their third straight loss, the Black and Gold put the Stars playoff hopes in further jeopardy with a three-goal third period.
Oh, and they did this all without their top center (Patrice Bergeron), their top defensive pair (Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy), their top puck-moving defenseman (Torey Krug), their pair of second line wingers (Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash) and their versatile power forward (David Backes).
Here is what we learned following the B’s 3-2 victory.
Marchand, Pastrnak and Schaller spark third-period comeback
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 24, 2018
It’s not that the Bruins were playing poorly in the first 40 minutes. They might have needed Tuukka Rask (more on his performance below) to bail them out in the opening 20, but the B’s got their legs going in the second and matched the Stars desperation.
Cassidy and company, however, got a tough bounce when Matt Grzelcyk slipped and Jamie Benn capitalized with a nifty shorthanded breakaway tally at 19:22 of the second for his 28th of the season and a 2-0 lead.
“We didn’t want to go down quietly for sure,” Bruce Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley postgame.
That they didn’t.
Sometimes it only takes one to get going, and David Pastrnak knew they were on to something when Brad Marchand notched his 32nd of the season with a little bit of puck luck just 1:17 into the final stanza.
“We played pretty well the first two periods. We had some looks but we couldn’t score,” Pastrnak told NESN’s Alex Kraemer. “We knew that if we got one then we would get that second one. We came out for the third [looking] to get that one goal and we knew if we were going to get one, then we would get the other one as well.”
It took a little while to get that second goal, but the Bruins made the perfect counter to Benn’s second period shorthanded tally with one of their own. With Brandon Carlo in the box, Tim Schaller finished off Marchand’s feed on a 2-on-1 with a stellar shorthanded goal of his own and his 11th tally of the season to tie things up at 9:47 of the third.
That set up Pastrnak’s game-winner 10 minutes later, with Marchand again tallying the assist on a give and go to complete his three-point night and the Bruins’ third final 20 comeback in the last two months.
“It’s open season on Brad Marchand.”
Those words echoed by Edwards came after Benn left his feet while delivering a high hit on Marchand in the third period that went uncalled.
Sure, Marchand has earned a reputation with his history of discipline handed out from the NHL Department of Player Safety. But Marchand has a reason to be upset of late as Benn’s hit was another example of how he hasn’t gotten the benefit of the doubt as of late.
Marchand obviously skated the next shift and eventually helped cap off the third-period comeback. Whether the league reviews Benn’s hit is anyone’s guess, especially after Brayden Schenn’s high hit on David Krejci in Wednesday’s Bruins-Blues contest that resulted in no supplemental discipline for Schenn.
Rask has his sharpest night of the year
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 24, 2018
He hasn’t played his best hockey in his last 10 starts leading up to Friday’s 40-save effort, but the Bruins bailed Rask out more often than not with their nightly goal-scoring barrage. Rask allowed four or more goals in five of those 10 starts but went 7-2-1 in that span.
It didn’t take long for Rask to stay active against a Stars team fighting for their playoff life. Among Rask’s season-high 40 stops, 16 came in the opening 20 minutes and 14 came on Dallas’ four power play attempts, but the 2014 Vezina winner played like an elite goalie against Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg and company.
“I thought the last two periods we played some solid hockey and we finally got rewarded with some goals,” Rask told reporters.
“You expect them to come out hard at home, especially since they’re a desperate team and they’re fighting for a playoff spot. And they did — and they got the lead — but we never panicked and we hung in there and finally got rewarded.”
Rask, indeed, put the Bruins in position to get rewarded with two points in arguably his best performance of his 2017-18 campaign.
Bruins may soon have a reinforcement
The Bruins started their injury-riddled stretch without Bergeron (foot) on Feb. 27. McAvoy was the next to join with a sprained MCL. Then came Chara (upper-body), DeBrusk (upper-body), Nash (upper-body), Backes (knee laceration) and Krug (upper-body) within a short timespan.
This makes the B’s 9-2-2 run even more impressive. But would things have looked a tad different if the team was healthy within the last month?
While there’s no answer to that, a pair of the aforementioned injured Bruins are a step closer toward returning. Bergeron will meet the team in Minnesota and is a game-time decision — along with Krug — for Sunday’s matchup with the Wild.