The Boston Bruins were on the cusp of securing two points late in Saturday’s tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They faced a pair of one-goal deficits after scoring first on Jake DeBrusk’s 15th of the season at 10:39 of the first. They found themselves within striking distance in the third after Craig Smith evened things up with his 10th of the year at 4:40 and Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead at 14:58 — for his 16th of the campaign — on a second-effort marker during Boston’s second power-play attempt.
But as was the case during the lone loss of their six-game road trip Tuesday in Anaheim, the Bruins needed their penalty kill to persevere in the final seconds. Jakub Voracek delivered the equalizer — moments after Jeremy Swayman’s second highlight-reel save of the night — with a mere 3.8 ticks left in regulation to force overtime.
The bitter end to regulation didn’t hinder the Bruins one bit. They held Columbus in check during a possession-heavy 3-on-3 extra session as a timely backcheck by David Pastrnak in the closing seconds ultimately forced a shootout.
Pastrnak scored the lone shootout tally in Round 3. Swayman secured the 5-4 win after stopping Voracek on the back half of the final round.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins pulled within two points of the Toronto Maple Leafs following their 5-1 road trip.
Pastrnak is showcasing stout awareness without the puck
One thing the Bruins preach, regardless of whether they’re relaying the message to a dynamic goal-scorer or a stay-at-home defenseman, is a 200-foot effort. Sometimes, players take a while to establish that motto. In other instances, they pick up nuances from the likes of Bergeron and Brad Marchand at practice or even game action.
Pastrnak had a front-row seat in learning from the best during his time with Marchand and Bergeron. But Bruce Cassidy needed to break up the potent top trio earlier this year in an attempt to balance out his four forward lines.
The 2014 first-round selection took off after moving to the second line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. He’s lit the lamp a whopping 23 after failing to tally a single goal in December.
Pastrnak didn’t add to his goal total in the first 65 minutes of play. He came through in the shootout to secure Boston’s seventh win in eight games. The Bruins needed him in the final shift of overtime. He delivered with a timely backcheck in the last seconds before notching his shootout marker.
“You can tell what kind of condition he’s in. He plays a lot of minutes for us,” Cassidy told reporters of Pastrnak’s overtime backcheck. “To be able to catch that play… who knows. It could’ve been a difference in the game. You never know on a backcheck, and that’s why we preach it a lot.”
Pastrnak’s backcheck wasn’t a one-off. He showcased stellar play away from the puck during the six-game run, delivering solid hits during his two-goal outing against the Golden Knights and taking a hit to advance the puck in Anaheim before one-timing a third-period equalizer.
Depth scoring balancing the Bruins
The Bruins need some scoring upgrades with the trade deadline approaching.
Or do they?
The Bruins made the most of the six-game run, which started with Marchand’s return from a six-game suspension. He once again entered the offensive forefront, tying with Taylor Hall for second in scoring with seven points during the six-game trip. Pastrnak, Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk tied for the team lead with eight points.
Cassidy and the coaching staff witnessed plenty of encouraging developments along the way. DeBrusk, in his potential swan song with the organization, upped his trade value after moving to his off-wing on the top line with Bergeron and Marchand. The third line provided more than complimentary scoring, with Smith breaking out of his recent slump after tallying four goals in his last two games.
It all came together with 16 different Bruins hitting the scoresheet in the last week and a half.
“There’s some nice consistency going on from one line to another,” Bergeron told NESN’s Sophia Jurksztowicz postgame. “When we play together and everyone is chipping in and finding ways [to score] — wave after wave — we’re a tough team to beat.”
Boston’s on-ice success coincided with some good old bonding.
Bruins build results and camaradarie during a statement trip
The Bruins may look back on this recent trip as a potential game-changer.
Off the ice, the tight-knit locker room had some time to get to know one another a little more, beginning with their first-ever trip to Seattle. Then came the three-game trip through California with stops in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Orange County, and a two-day stay in Las Vegas before returning to East Coast time in Columbus to close out the recent swing.
The Bruins will get some needed rest before beginning a three-game homestand Monday against a Kings squad looking for revenge from last Monday’s 7-0 blowout. The on-ice results and the bonding time away from the rink have Swayman and company feeling pretty good about themselves.
“We were super happy with the trip,” Swayman said following his 20-save outing. “I think there’s a lot of growth with each game, coming from behind at times and also maintaining leads. It was super fun to be a part of a great bonding trip. We got to hang out a lot away from the ice, so all around a really fun trip to be a part of.”
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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