It’s been uncharacteristically warm this winter in New England. For one reason or another, mid-February has felt like mid-March.
Much like the weather, it appears that the Boston Bruins and the Dallas Stars are preparing us for the spring months to come.
The Bruins’ encouraging start on Tuesday night demonstrated their intent to iron out the wrinkles of their recent sluggish showing. Taking heed of Jim Montgomery’s shot-first directive, Boston dominated the first half of the opening frame.
Taylor Hall deposited a slick feed from Hampus Lindholm, surprising Jake Oettinger for the opening tally.
For the village it took to break through Oettinger, the Bruins had their hard-earned momentum halted.
The reunited ‘perfection line’ of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak leading the charge up front to start Tuesday’s contest. It did not end that way, though, as Dallas’ top line collected both tallies, beginning with Roope Hintz’s 23rd goal of the season.
Jason Robertson took notice of Hintz’s first-period equalizer and produced the same result to give the Stars the 2-1 lead in the second period. On separate occasions, the two young stars gained separation off the rush and found cracks in a leakier-than-usual Linus Ullmark.
With each passing unsuccessful man advantage, the Bruins found themselves in yet another offensive rut. The Marchands and Pastrnaks of the world couldn’t quite solve Ottenger. But that paved the way for the Bruins’ second wave of offensive depth.
Amid their relentless pursuit for the equalizer, Pavel Zacha finally beat Oettinger with an absolutely perfect shot.
“Pasta’s going to push the pace there for me, so I have some space in the neutral zone,” Zacha told reporters. “I kicked it out, tried to get to the net, and Mac made a great play on the seam pass to Pasta.”
Another 13 thrilling minutes passed, but Pastrnak wouldn’t remain quiet for long.
Delivered on a silver platter by Charlie McAvoy, Pastrnak’s 39th goal of the year brought the Bruins back to a familiar place.
The Bruins didn’t make it easy on themselves. The Stars got the better of them in many areas.
But Boston did it again. They found a way to win.
“I loved the way we played hard for each other,” Montgomery said to NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley following the B’s thrilling 3-2 overtime win. ”It was everyone blocking shots, and we went to hard areas consistently.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins began their siblings’ trip with a resilient overtime victory in Dallas.
The penalty kill saved the day.
The Bruins needed their top-ranked penalty kill to shine in a pair of clutch situations, beginning late in the second period. With McAvoy and Connor Clifton in the box, the Bruins kept the Stars in check, killing off both penalties that included a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 57 seconds.
Another penalty kill stood in Boston’s path to victory, this time with Marchand in the box for interference. Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort put together an iron man penalty kill, absorbing as much rubber as possible during the 4-on-3 situation.
“It seemed like everything was going against us,” Montgomery said. “We had to kill off a five on three; we had to kill off a four on three.”
Ullmark (29 saves) stood tall on both penalty kills, absorbing whatever rubber made its way past Forbort and Carlo in overtime.
Areas of improvement remain.
Without a doubt, the Bruins put together a solid effort for over 60 minutes. A character win in dramatic fashion carries much momentum, possibly enough to propel Boston out of its first slide of the season.
As is the case with playoff-style games, there are definite ups and downs that need to be weighted appropriately.
Through game-saving penalty kills, the Bruins firmly established that at least one side of their special teams is playoff ready. As good as their penalty kill performed Tuesday night, the struggling power play was anything but efficient.
The Bruins have not scored on the power play since Jan. 18, with their percentage slipping below 10 percent and continually heading toward the bottom of the league.
It was also an eyebrow-raising night on the faceoff dot as the Stars won 81 percent of the draws.
Resiliency won the day yet again.
With four losses in their last five games, the Bruins encountered their first legitimate stretch of adversity. Yet, Boston’s veteran-heavy squad hardly needed a lesson in how to deal with rough patches in an 82-game season.
Momentum swings and crucial penalty kills are nothing new to the likes of Marchand and Bergeron. And on Tuesday, the Bruins re-established a tenacity that had dropped off a bit during their recent slide.
“As well as we were playing, the scoreboard wasn’t reflecting it,” Montgomery said. “We had to overcome a lot. That’s a playoff game where you’ve got to ride the momentum waves, you’ve got to handle adversity, and persist and overcome that.”
The sky wasn’t falling. No one panicked.
If nothing else, the Bruins had a refreshing return to familiarity.
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