The league-leading Boston Bruins entered their two-game Florida swing expecting a couple of playoff-like tilts.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad took care of business in Tampa two nights prior against a talented Lightning squad hoping to cut into Boston’s lead in the Atlantic Division. A mere 48 hours later, they faced a desperate Panthers bunch just hoping to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Like Tuesday, the Bruins needed to grind out a victory. This time, in the midst of their ‘B’ game, they needed the 3-on-3 overtime session to accomplish the feat.
Jaroslav Halak (32 saves) made some spectacular stops in the closing moments — including a breakaway attempt on Alex Barkov — to give the Bruins a chance. Torey Krug, who watched Evgenii Dadonov elbow his defensive partner Brandon Carlo in the second period, notched the winner at 4:08 of the extra session to secure the 2-1 win at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
“I thought it was our ‘B’ game for the most part,” Cassidy told reporters postgame. “I didn’t love our game, but I loved the fact that we stayed in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins remain nine points ahead of the Lightning in the Atlantic Division.
Krug showcasing his worth for a new contract
The 5-foot-9 defenseman rarely showcased any shortcomings throughout his tenure in Boston. That hasn’t changed this season as Krug continues to showcase his worth in the final year of his current contract.
Krug hasn’t allowed the distraction of future contract negotiations to hinder him one bit. His latest two-point night is further proof of that.
In his 22:12 of ice time, the former Michigan State Spartan led all skaters — along with David Pastrnak — with five shots on net. Krug made that time worthwhile on the game’s last shot, firing a blast from the point past Chris Driedger to walk off with the thrilling victory.
“I was trying to let the screen set up and try to shoot back against traffic,” Krug told the assembled media about his game-winner. “I [knew] it was getting through [traffic]. It was just a matter on whether it was going to get in or not and I had enough time space up top to take my time with it.”
Dadonov escapes a major penalty after elbowing Carlo
The Bruins tried everything to find their second gear after a decent start. Nick Ritchie attempted to light a spark during his fight with Riley Stillman in the opening stanza, but his teammates couldn’t build off of that spirited bout initially.
MacKenzie Weegar gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 6:55 into the middle stanza. But the Bruins found that second gear after Dadonov delivered an unnecessary elbow to Carlo’s face less than four minutes later.
Carlo exited the game following the high hit from Dadonov, who collided with Ondrej Kase in the opening stanza sending the latter to the locker room before returning to the ice a shift or two later. The officials downgraded Dadonov’s penalty to a two-minute minor after review.
Dadonov may have escaped further punishment on Thursday. But he’ll likely receive a call from the league after his reckless hit on Carlo.
The Bruins still made Dadonov pay as Bergeron tipped Krug’s shot from the point past Driedger to even things up on the power play. Yet, the victory may have come at a steep price.
Carlo missed the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. The Bruins benefitted from Carlo’s postseason debut a year ago. Both parties are now holding their breath as Carlo awaits further examination upon his return to Boston.
Bergeron adds another 30-goal season to his impressive career
His production is still worthy of Selke Trophy consideration. Yet, Bergeron’s season has been rather quiet as David Pastrnak‘s push for 50 goals and Brad Marchand’s quest for another 100-point season takes center stage.
The ever-humble Bergeron showcases a rather quiet demeanor. His yearly consistency speaks volumes.
Bergeron notched his sixth 30-goal campaign with his power-play tally in the middle stanza. He once again entered elite company as the sixth Bruin in franchise history to accomplish that feat, joining Cam Neely, Peter McNab, Johnny Bucyk, Rick Middleton and Phil Esposito.
At 34, Bergeron needs three goals to surpass his career-high of 32 (done twice in 2015-16 and again last season). He’s shown little decline — if any — in the latter years of his illustrious career.
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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