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  • Bruins-Isles takeaways: What we learned from Boston’s “biggest win of the year”

    Tim Rosenthal December 16, 2023

    A shorthanded Boston Bruins bunch nearly got run out of UBS Arena Friday night. But they turned a potential blowout into a gutsy performance against the New York Islanders.

    Jim Montgomery’s squad faced three separate deficits, including a 2-0 disadvantage after Alex Romanov and Simon Holmstrom scored 12 minutes apart during the middle stanza. Before that, the Bruins went nearly 10 minutes between shots on goal toward the end of the opening frame.

    Already shorthanded without their top-line center in Pavel Zacha and most well-rounded blue-liner in Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins could’ve caved on the first half of their back-to-back. Instead, they dug deep and showcased resiliency.

    The Bruins leaned on Linus Ullmark to deliver multiple 10-bell saves, with his robbery on Holmstrom serving as his stop of the night. They then got a spark out of their power play, with Morgan Geekie notching his second goal in as many games and David Pastrnak and James van Riemsdyk each notching equalizers.


    The power-play trend carried over into the third. The Isles notching a pair of go-ahead tallies behind a Bo Horvat wrister in the bumper position and a Brock Nelson netting a net-front marker off a friendly bounce off the boards.

    Even a replay decision wiping away a potential tally from Marchand didn’t rattle the Bruins. Nor did Nelson’s marker that gave the Isles a 4-3 lead. For that matter, nor did a head-scratching tripping call on Pastrnak late in regulation.

    “This is one of those games where you know it’s going to come where you stick with it, and that’s what we did,” Ullmark said to reporters. “I’m so proud of the fellas that they did that and they didn’t do stupid stuff out there and try to do too much. They put pucks on the net, they put bodies in front. We got some goals waved off, but still, that can get you down when you’re that close and you don’t get it, and we stuck with it.”

    The Bruins earned their bounces during the final 20, with rookie defenseman Lohrei notching the final tying marker on a bad-angle shot. They followed up with a timely kill in overtime, then secured the wild 5-4 victory behind a pair of highlight reel moments by Charlie Coyle and Pastrnak in the shootout.

    “To me, that’s the biggest win of the year just because of the energy on the bench,” Montgomery said to the media. “That’s the first time I felt like that there was energy, emotion… everybody believed.”

    Here’s what we learned from Boston’s 18th triumph of the season.

    Boston’s power play found a rhythm following Ullmark’s gigantic stops

    Amid a transitional centennial camapaign, the Bruins encountered a rotating door within their top-six and two power-play units. Despite the expected offensive decline, the dynamic goaltending tandem of Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman picked up where they left off from last season.

    The trend continued on Friday, with Ullmark facing 17 high-danger shots. He stopped 15 of those attempts, including a momentum-shifting toe save on Holmstrom during an Isles’ shorthanded rush in the second period.

    Without Ullmark’s save-of-the-year candidate, the Bruins would’ve faced a 3-0 hole. Instead, they used the remaining seconds from their first opportunity with the man advantage to cut the New York lead to 2-1 after Brad Marchand used his half-wall prowess to connect with Geekie at the bumper.

    “Linus kept us in it when it was 2-0,” Pastrnak told NESN’s Adam Pellerin. “He made an unbelievable [save] when they were shorthanded, and we go the other way and score to get back into the game. Obviously a huge game by him, and overall, a crazy game that had power-play goals both ways.”

    Between Geekie’s bumper tally, Pastrnak’s one-timer and van Riemsdyk’s tip, the Bruins’ power-play used various avenues for its first three-goal outing this season. Kevin Shattenkirk, who succumbed to a bad bounce that led directly to New York’s second marker, bounced back from his earlier blunder to deliver a nifty no-look feed to Pastrnak and a quick slap pass to van Riemsdyk for Boston’s first two equalizers.


    Amid a chaotic night, the usually reliable Bruins’ penalty kill allowed two goals nearly seven minutes apart. But they bounced back to kill off the first 17 seconds of Pastrnak’s tripping call at the end of regulation and the subsequent 1:43 of New York’s 4-on-3 opportunity at the beginning of overtime.

    “I hated that call in the end. I barely touched him,” Pastrnak told NESN of the sequence involving Kyle Palmieri at the end of regulation. “But the guys did a great job killing that penalty in OT. That was huge.”

    The Bruins “got back to competing.”

    At times during his 14-year career, Marchand referred to hockey as a “game of mistakes.” The sentiment holds true at any level of play, which is why many teams at the highest level of hockey preach on second efforts whenever things go awry.

    Over the last two games, the Bruins encountered their share of miscues without Zacha and McAvoy. But compared to Friday’s back-and-forth affair, Montgomery’s club established better habits against a skilled Devils bunch, holding a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes. New Jersey’s talent eventually took over en route to a 2-1 overtime victory.

    No matter the situation, Montgomery’s bunch didn’t deviate from their identity. And as Friday’s tilt progressed, a determined Bruins bunch came away with two points despite not holding one lead through 65 minutes of playing time.

    “It was more of us getting back to competing,” Montgomery told NESN’s Adam Brickley. “We’ve had a couple of games where there were a couple of missteps where we didn’t like the compete we had. I loved the way we competed in New Jersey, and tonight, I didn’t think we valued the puck enough. But in the third period, the energy, the emotion and the resiliency to just keep coming back and never say die, you can feel it on the bench that we were going to continue to push.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    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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