The Boston Bruins faced a 2-1 deficit against the Vegas Golden Knights in the final 20 minutes before their bye week. They saved the best for last in the final 20.
Jake DeBrusk went to the practice well to score the equalizer. The play started in Jaroslav Halak’s end and quickly transitioned down the other end where DeBrusk went top shelf on Marc-Andre Fleury for his 15th goal of the season at 4:26 of the final stanza.
DeBrusk’s usual linemate, David Krejci, netted the game-winner in his first game back in a third-line role with Danton Heinen and Karson Kuhlman. The Bruins persevered through two separate deficits en route to a needed 3-2 victory.
“[They’re] good pros. [It] doesn’t surprise me,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said postgame on the Bruins’ focus with the bye week looming. “Our guys are good that way, and I think the way we finished in Pittsburgh probably gave us a bit more focus.”
The Bruins return to the ice a week from Friday in Winnipeg. Here’s what we learned from a solid bounce-back win following their disappointing loss in Pittsburgh two days prior.
Halak bounced back
The journeyman netminder encountered a busy workload once Rask sustained a concussion in Columbus on Jan. 14. He entered his third straight start on Tuesday in midst of one of his roughest stretches of the season.
Halak allowed a soft goal on Mark Stone’s back-hander a mere 1:24 into Tuesday’s contest. That wasn’t a good omen coming on the heels of a tough loss to the Penguins after the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead.
But Halak bounced back, stopping 27 of the next 28 shots that he faced. He didn’t have to stand on his head, but the Bruins needed the Slovak to back them up when needed and he delivered, especially in the third following Krejci’s game-winner.
Ironically enough, this marked the second straight home game where Halak allowed a goal on the game’s first shot. But the Bruins overcame the early holes against the Golden Knights and the first half of their recent home and home with the Penguins.
Of all the players in the locker room, Halak will likely welcome the bye week with open arms. He certainly deserves it.
Krejci and new linemates slowly build chemistry en route to game-winner
Cassidy deemed Krejci as a game-time decision after his second-line center missed the prior two games with an upper-body injury. Upon Krejci’s arrival, the fourth-year Bruins’ bench boss assigned the veteran center to the third line with Heinen and Kuhlman.
DeBrusk Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork built chemistry with one another in Krejci’s absence. Cassidy opted to keep the DeBrusk-Coyle-Bjork trio intact while sliding Krejci down to the third line. Heinen and Kuhlman each skated with Krejci before on the second line, thus providing the Czech centerman some familiarity for his first game in seven days.
The trio slowly formed a cohesive unit against Vegas. Their chemistry came to fruition late in the third when Krejci banked home a rebound on Brandon Carlo’s point shot to secure Boston’s triumph.
“I feel like all three of us are smart on that line,” Krejci said regarding his chemistry with Heinen and Kuhlman. “We played together before, so we know what to expect from each other. They’re smart players. They like to make plays. It hasn’t worked all the time, but it worked when it mattered tonight, so I’m glad we could help the team get a ‘W.'”
We won’t know if Cassidy will keep Heinen, Krejci and Kuhlman intact after the bye week. It certainly wouldn’t hurt for Cassidy to go back to that well even if it’s on a temporary basis.
Lauzon left a good impression
The Bruins recalled Lauzon from Providence early Tuesday. He barely had a chance to settle into his assignment with Matt Grzelcyk on the third defensive pairing upon his arrival.
Yet, he wasted little time finding his groove come puck drop. And Cassidy wasn’t shy using Lauzon in any situation, including the penalty kill where he notched 1:58 of shorthanded time on ice.
Lauzon’s biggest impact in his 15:38 of ice time came early in the first when he evened things up at 1-1. With possession of the puck at the point, the 2015 second-round selection made a simple shot toward goal that found its way past Fleury for his second career goal.
“I thought he played hard, competes all over the ice. We’ve seen that before, so we expected that,” Cassidy said of Lauzon. “He scores a goal — obviously, in a one-goal game, that matters. And did it in the right way, didn’t overthink it. Just got it, got off the wall, make sure you pound it hard so it gets by the first layer.”
The Bruins will likely send Lauzon back to Providence for some more seasoning during the bye week. But this may not be the last time we see him in Boston this season.
The Bruins will be in a solid position when they return
Every 82-game slate has its share of ebbs and flows. The Bruins encountered their share of highs during the first two months of the season. They’ve also hit some rough patches over the last several weeks with their overtime struggles and issues with finishing off teams after holding multi-goal leads.
The 20-man roster will now embark on some much-needed time off following Tuesday’s win. Some members will spend quality downtime with their families, while others will spend some vacation time away from Boston.
“Obviously we like the way we got the two points tonight and we’re going to be resetting pretty good here,” DeBrusk said. “I can’t wait for it. It’s one of those things where you take advantage of [the time off]. You just try to reset and retool everything up and get ready for that second half because those are usually pretty tight.”
The week-and-a-half long break also gives time for the wounded to heal. DeBrusk and the company may have some reinforcements upon their return, including Rask, who skated before Monday’s practice and again on Tuesday.
Like every team, the Bruins still have some kinks to work out, including stringing together more 60-minute efforts. They’ll return next week with a renewed focus following a much-needed breather.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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