There were a few differences between Saturday’s comeback effort and Monday. For one, the Bruins looked lethargic for a good chunk of the opening 40 minutes. They watched as the Caps gained a quick 2-0 lead on Zdeno Chara’s first goal against his former team since leaving Boston and Richard Panik’s tally a mere 11 seconds apart. John Carlson added a power play blast early in the second period for the 3-0 cushion.
On Saturday, Bruce Cassidy’s squad outplayed the Capitals for most of the 60-plus minutes. The Bruins peppered Vitek Vanecek with 43 shots on net, pressuring the Caps netminder all night before forcing overtime on Charlie McAvoy’s equalizer late in regulation.
This time, the Bruins needed to find their rhythm before the Caps ran them out of the building. David Pastrnak eased the Bruins’ angst with his two tallies at 12:37 of the middle stanza and at 6:08 of the third to put his team in striking distance.
Unlike Saturday, however, the Bruins completed the comeback. A pair of clutch plays from defensemen Jeremy Lauzon (assisting on Craig Smith’s equalizer at 13:07) and Brandon Carlo (blasting home the go-ahead goal with 2:37 left in regulation) and Brad Marchand’s empty netter Boston’s thrilling 5-3 victory at Capital One Arena.
“The message of being harder to play against [previously] was a little more forceful,” Cassidy said of his message to his club between the second and third periods. “Today was more of a reminder of that…and surely they took it to heart. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to finish, but tonight we did.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins handed the Capitals their first regulation loss of the season.
The young defensemen have stepped up offensively
Torey Krug’s departure left the Bruins with some unproven puck-moving defensemen to choose from. Even with Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, they weren’t going to replace Krug’s stellar offensive production overnight. They’ve used a committee of sorts in an attempt to replicate Krug’s impressive point totals during his Boston tenure.
That theory has come to fruition so far. McAvoy remains active in all three zones, helping the Bruins transition up ice quickly and providing timely pinches in the attacking end. Jakub Zboril has some hiccups to his checking game but looks comfortable with the puck on his stick. Even a pair of stay at home defensemen in Carlo and Lauzon have displayed a keen offensive eye in the early going.
The assertiveness from the back end paid dividends on Monday. Boston’s defense core tallied five points sparked by Carlo’s goal and assist. They couldn’t have come at more pivotal moments, either, with Carlo’s game-winner — and secondary helper on Pastrnak’s first tally — Zboril and McAvoy assisting on Boston’s second goal, and Lauzon’s stellar pinch and feed to Smith for the tying marker.
“If you need a game where you need three or four [goals] to win, then they’re going to have to be a part of it,” Cassidy said about the defensemen contributing on the scoresheet.
“It’s very encouraging. We know it’s in Charlie. Carlo, I think, had six [goals] his rookie year, so there’s a little more there, and Lauzon and Zboril have the ability to pitch in. So we want to make sure that we’re getting that out of them. They’re trying to defend well, do all the right things, play against good players every night, so it’s a big ask. But they came through in the third, and they’re a big part of why we got two points.”
Trent Frederic nudged Tom Wilson into a pivotal bout
Frederic watched from the penalty box as the Bruins busted things open in the third. Yet, he made his trip to the sin bin worthwhile.
The former Wisconsin Badger attempted to tempt a skilled and physical enigma in Tom Wilson to drop the gloves throughout this two-game set. Wilson didn’t take the bait for five-plus periods. Finally, with the Bruins still trailing 3-2, Wilson accepted Frederic’s invitation quickly after a neutral zone faceoff.
Wilson and Frederic exchanged a pair of haymakers before the latter went down for a tumble. A buzzing Bruins bunch got another lift following Frederic’s bout, sparking them to another comeback.
“In the box, I was like another kid in there just jumping around in the box,” Frederic said. “It felt good to watch that. I had a really good angle on Brando’s [Carlo] slap shot top shelf.”
Be it against Tom Wilson or getting under the skin of P.K. Subban, Frederic’s abrasiveness gives the Bruins a physical dynamic on the bottom-six. His blue-collar work-ethic resonates with the fanbase.
Make no mistake, Frederic is here to stay. The Bruins could still use some offense from Frederic to round out his skillset. His growing chemistry with Smith and Charlie Coyle on the third line will only help that cause.
“He’s a young kid that wants to get in there and be physical,” Smith said of Frederic. “That’s a tough job to do. He can certainly handle himself, and it’s impressive too because he has other attributes to his game that can help too. So when he can go in and do that, it fires our bench up. He has no fear, and that’s a big part of his game.”
Pastrnak battles on upon returning
He may not be fully immersed yet into the daily grind of an NHL season. But through two games, Pastrnak hasn’t shied away from creating offense on a moment’s notice.
In his first game back on Saturday, the dynamic Czech playmaker tallied an assist and fired five shots on net in 20:29 of ice time. He had another 20-minute outing two nights later, adding a pair of key lamplighters to his credit.
Pastrnak’s first tally of the night came on a one-timer from the slot on Marchand’s feed.
A little over 13 minutes of game action elapsed before Pastrnak added his second of the night. Once again, he took parked himself in a prime scoring spot at the left face-off dot for a slick wrist shot past Vanecek.
“I was missing the net a little, so obviously it felt good to finally hit the net and get the first one[s] out of the way,” Pastrnak said.
Pastrnak’s body took a little beating in his first game since the playoff bubble. He compared the soreness to getting run over by a certain train. Now he’ll join his teammates on said locomotive to Philadelphia — for a two-game set with the Flyers starting on Wednesday — with a pair of goals to his credit.
“When I got checked in the first game, I said I felt I got hit by a train. I felt great during the first game but the next morning was really tough,” Pastrnak said. “I feel good again, and let’s take the train to Philly now.”
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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