The Boston Bruins really couldn’t have asked for much more from Jaroslav Halak.
Boston’s backup netminder turned away 42 shots in an eventual 3-2 shootout loss to the league-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday at TD Garden.
Washington’s first goal was thanks to a nice tip in the slot from Travis Boyd, while the equalizer came from a T.J. Oshie one-timer with 59 seconds left in regulation. He made stellar saves wire-to-wire, including in the shootout, but Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana’s scores secured the win for the Caps.
There were times that Halak faced an all-out firing squad, chiefly in the first period when he had to stone 18 shots. The Bruins kept bending as the third period continued on, and in eventually breaking they spoiled their netminder’s tremendous night.
And they knew it.
“He was awesome. He doesn’t deserve a loss like that, he played great,” Charlie Coyle said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “He came up huge early on, the whole game really. … We broke down defensively in our own zone and just pucks (kept) coming through, and he was shutting the door. That’s what kept us in the lead, kept us in the game, so he was great for us.”
“Obviously feel bad for him,” David Krejci said. “He made huge saves out there, not just the one in the shootout (Alex Ovechkin), but throughout the whole game he kept us in the game. Obviously feel bad for him, even though he played a hell of a game.”
David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy echoed their more veteran teammates’ sentiments.
“Jaro played outstanding, and it’s a little bit on us that we weren’t able to pull it out for him,” Pastrnak said.
“He was the best player on the ice, he deserved better,” added McAvoy.
Not for nothing, but Halak hasn’t been great lately, posting a .893 save percentage in his last four games entering Saturday. For his sake, maybe this showing against the Capitals will push him back in the right direction after beginning the campaign on a tear.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Bruins-Capitals game:
— The Bruins continue to be a downright woeful team in shootouts, going 1-for-5 Saturday night.
Coyle, again, was the only scorer for Boston, burying his attempt in the first round. From there, Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Krejci and Chris Wagner missed their attempts.
Particularly concerning was Pastrnak missing again. For one, his attempt to deke Braden Holtby was as unsuccessful as it was appallingly bad, and in not executing he fell to 3-for-17 in his career in shootouts.
“Yeah I would think (that it’s probably at least a little mental),” Pastrnak said of his and the team’s shootout woes. “It hasn’t been our strength, we haven’t been able to pull wins out of shootouts, it sucks obviously. Don’t know, usually shootouts it’s 50-50, these days it’s probably 20-80.”
— Patrice Bergeron didn’t play in Saturday’s game, as his lower-body injury added him to the already lengthy list of sidelined Bruins.
The lineup very much reflected that, in particular the *third* line of Trent Frederic, Par Lindholm and Paul Carey, the latter of whom was called up earlier in the day after Torey Krug was placed on injured reserve.
What ended up happening was Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy essentially rolled three lines, as Frederic only saw 4:16 ice time, while Carey logged 6:22. Lindholm got more usage, skating for 10:31.
As a result, Marchand (24:52), Pastrnak (22:58) and Krejci (22:18) each had to skate uncharacteristically big minutes. Obviously injuries have put the Bruins in a tough spot, but for their sake they must be hoping returns are on the horizon, because that type of ice time for their big guns really isn’t sustainable.
— On the brighter side, Coyle does seem like he’s starting to hit his stride.
Throughout October there were plenty of times that he looked like the best player on the ice, but bad luck kept that from reflecting on the score sheet. That seems to be changing now, as Coyle is riding a four-game point streak, putting together two goals and three assists in that stretch. He had a goal in the first period against Washington.
— The Bruins now have a couple days off before traveling to New Jersey to face the Devils.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images