For all the concerns the Boston Bruins encountered earlier in the week, Saturday marked a chance to end their four-game road trip with a net positive.
Unlike their previous three outings in Colorado, Arizona and Las Vegas, the Bruins got off to a relatively decent start against the Blues. They still needed some luck — and a wake-up call — after a successful offside challenge erased Kevin Hayes’ tally.
Hayes scored earlier in the period, countering Brad Marchand’s 18th a mere 65 ticks after Boston’s captain celebrated his 900th career NHL point. But watching Hayes’ second tally come off the board got Boston’s attention.
Jim Montgomery’s club initially responded accordingly to the wake-up call. Aside from a lackluster first power play attempt, the Bruins established a healthy 200-foot forecheck to work their way into quality scoring bids.
Eventually, they worked their way to the middle of the ice and cashed in again at 6:26 of the middle frame when Jesper Boqvist connected with Charlie McAvoy to give Boston the 2-1 lead.
The Blues notched their second tying marker 4:31 later, with Jake Neighbours taking advantage of loose coverage in front of the net for a power-play tally just seconds after a head-scratching slashing call went against Marchand.
Another night of brutal officiating carried over into the third when Kasperi Kapanen initiated an interference call on Hampus Lindholm. Oskar Sundqvist converted on the ensuing power play, tipping his fourth of the season with 5:13 left in regulation.
Before that, the Bruins worked their way to a 3-2 lead when Marchand notched the second of the night, burying a brilliant feed from David Pastrnak on a 5-on-3 power play.
Come overtime, the Bruins benefitted from a make-up call — or lack thereof. After he tripped up Robert Thomas in the neutral zone, Pastrnak set up the winning sequence with McAvoy to give the Bruins the 4-3 victory.
“It’s a special win,” goalie Jeremy Swayman said, “and it’s something we’re going to build on moving forward.”
With all four games of their trip ending in the extra session, here’s what we learned after the Bruins earned five of a possible eight points.
The Bruins received the benefit of the doubt in overtime.
Through 42 games, the Bruins acquainted themselves with overtime and shootouts.
McAvoy’s clincher against the Blues marked Boston’s 12th overtime appearance this season. A third of those extra sessions came during this four-game road trip.
Against the Avalanche, the Bruins withstood Brandon Carlo’s exit to secure a point. A night later, they witnessed Matthew Poitras depart in the third period and Linus Ullmark succumb to a lower-body ailment in a save attempt during the 3-on-3 overtime against the Coyotes.
Without their injured trio — all of whom remain day-to-day — the Bruins fell to Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights after Alex Pietrangelo took advantage of a missed assignment involving Marchand and Pastrnak.
After three straight bitter setbacks, the Bruins entered yet another overtime. This time, they overcame a late tying marker from Sundqvist and finally added one to the OT win column.
“It was kind of disheartening the way we were losing these games … three overtimes in a row,” McAvoy told reporters after the Bruins improved to 3-8 in the extra session. “You go into overtime again tonight, blow a lead, but it all worked out. It feels good right now, and it’s nice to end the trip with a win.”
They’ll gladly take that win, even if it came after a missed call.
As he focused on Robbi Fabbri in transition, the Bruins quickly turned defense into offense after Pastrnak’s trip on Thomas. Within a few seconds, McAvoy looked off Pastrnak and promptly beat Jordan Binnington at the 1:10 mark of overtime.
“I have to go back and watch it because it happened so fast. I was kind of coming back on Robbi [Fabbri], and the next thing you know, I had it going the other way,” McAvoy said. “I think it was maybe Pasta that made a stand and a good defensive play [for a] 2-on-1 and then I just … I didn’t think I was going to get the pass through, so I just tried to shoot it, and I’m glad it worked out.”
Swayman and Montgomery will join Pastrnak in Toronto.
Saturday marked the final deadline for the remaining fan votes for the upcoming All-Star Game.
Pastrnak already knew his status when the league revealed the first 32 all-stars a week ago Thursday. As the week progressed, the Bruins had a couple of players on the fence, and in the end, Swayman earned one of the eight goalie spots.
“It’s really special,” Swayman said to the media of becoming an all-star for the first time in his career. “First and foremost, it couldn’t have happened without the team in front of me. I’m so lucky to have such a defensive-structured team that takes pride in the D-zone and, of course, gets it done in the offensive zone. So huge kudos to them for allowing this to happen.”
Time and again, Swayman bailed the Bruins out with significant game-changing saves. But, as he alluded to, he benefitted from a reliable defensive setup during his time in Boston.
Boston’s fourth-year netminder heard about his status ahead of his 22nd start of the 2023-24 campaign. His coach had to wait for word until the midway point of Saturday’s tilt.
Florida’s 4-1 loss to New Jersey confirmed Montgomery’s status for the early February events in Toronto. The Panthers entered Saturday’s slate just one point behind the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Marchand and company didn’t want to leave anything in doubt, however. Ultimately, they ensured their coach would serve as Boston’s third all-star representative.
“He’s come in and been great for this group, and he’s really bonded well with all the guys. So, when you care about somebody like that, you want to see them have success,” Marchand said of Montgomery. “I’m very happy for all three guys to be going and representing our team.”
Marchand reaches 900 point-milestone … for real.
Marchand’s two-goal outing in Colorado moved him into fifth place on Boston’s all-time scoring list and one point shy of 900 for his career. He thought he achieved that next coveted milestone with an assist on Pastrnak’s first-period marker in Arizona, only for a scoring change to bring him back down to 899.
The first-year Boston captain had to wait a little longer after the Golden Knights held him off the scoresheet. On Saturday, he quickly secured that 900th point after Charlie Coyle created a turnover from behind the net to set Marchand up on a tape-to-tape feed in front of Binnington.
“It feels good. I don’t think when I was younger when I started, I would’ve come this far,” Marchand told NESN’s Adam Pellerin. “So I’m just trying to be grateful for this opportunity and how far we’ve come as a team, so it’s a lot of fun every day.”
Another milestone for Marchand is quickly approaching. The veteran winger is 12 games away from the 1,000-game milestone. Barring injury, Marchand is scheduled to achieve that accolade when the Bruins host the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 15.
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