The Boston Bruins lost what was then the Northeast Division last year to the Montreal Canadiens by one singular point. After 48 games, just one stinking point is all that separated the longtime rivals.
The “point” of the story? Every point matters.
That’s why Thursday night was so important for the Bruins. Despite trailing 2-0 as the third period began, the B’s were able to battle back and tie the game late in the third period. They eventually lost in overtime when T.J. Oshie scored a fluky goal in the extra frame, but it’s a hard-earned point that the Bruins will certainly take.
Getting that one point is even more impressive when you consider what the Bruins were going up against. Playing without captain Zdeno Chara who is in Sochi for the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, Boston was shorthanded on defense. The B’s were left with Johnny Boychuk as the unit’s elder statesmen, and the young D-men were called on to log more minutes than they are used to playing. Not only that, the Bruins were on the road taking on the Blues, one of the league’s best teams, a team that entered the game with a 20-5-3 home record.
“We did have a lot of chances throughout the game,” Boychuk told reporters after the game. “I thought that we played pretty well throughout the game, especially with Z out. The young guys stepped up and played extremely well, and the score didn’t really tell the tale. I thought we should have won. Some nights you get the bounces. The team played extremely well for having our team leader out.”
There were still defensive breakdowns without Chara’s calming presence, no doubt. On the two goals the Blues scored in regulation, the Bruins’ defensemen probably lacked a little aggressiveness. Matt Bartkowski was unable to take away the shooting lane on Alexander Steen’s goal in the first period. Then in the second period, Kevan Miller elected not to step up and challenge Jaden Schwartz, which allowed the forward to move toward the slot before scoring on a wicked wrist shot.
Those sorts of breakdowns are to be expected. However, there weren’t any other glaring breakdowns for the Bruins’ defense. In fact, the B’s did a pretty good job of limiting St. Louis’ chances. The Bruins ended up outshooting the Blues 38-26 on the night, and Boston also got the better of the scoring chances. Yet the Bruins still found themselves chasing those two goals as they entered the third period. St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak had shut the Bruins down, as he had stopped all 24 shots he saw through two periods.
However, the Bruins kept plugging away. They started the third period with a few good shifts in which they were able to get pucks deep and start to pin down the Blues a little bit more. Once they finally started getting traffic in front, they were able to break through. David Krejci’s 13th goal of the season got the B’s on the board at the 9:16 mark of the third. That was thanks in large part to Milan Lucic getting his large body in front of the net and creating some traffic in front of Halak. That allowed Krejci to beat the goalie with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
The B’s then tied it up just 2:08 later when Brad Marchand was the beneficiary of an advantagious bounce. Boychuk’s shot from the point deflected wide and off the lively endboard. Marchand was there to quickly put the puck back on the net and up under the crossbar for the game-tying goal.
With the game tied, the Bruins’ defensive system came through. Boston was able to at least keep the game tied until the end of regulation to ensure they’d get at least a point. The ironic thing, of course, is that Oshie’s game-winner came because of a breakdown in the Boston zone, not from a defenseman, but from Carl Soderberg. The forward turned it over behind his own net with Oshie right there, and Oshie was able to jam the puck by Tuukka Rask for the game-winner.
All in all, though, the effort satisfied Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“I thought we played really well,” he told NESN’s Jamie Erdahl. “I thought, if anything, we probably deserved better. I thought we were the better team tonight. I think we were in a hole there 2-0, and it was just a matter of sticking with it. We finally got some goals. A bad break at the end and some of the nights that’s what ends up happening, but I’m really happy with the effort of our whole team tonight.”
That effort was made even better by the fact that the Bruins got out of town with at least a point, which is no small feat, especially given the circumstances.