B's finally show right stuff, but what took so long?

B's finally show right stuff, but what took so long?

BOSTON – The good news is that the Bruins finally found their special something against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

“We obviously know the implications of winning and losing, so it was good to obviously have the start that we did – with [the Red Wings] traveling and everything it was, I think, crucial to our success to get out there and get the first one and push them back a bit,” said Torey Krug. “Overall it was a really good team win. We’re in a position where we can continue to live, and hopefully we get some more help.”

The bad news is that it took until they were shoved into a corner to find that little bit extra in a solid, wall-to-wall 5-2 victory at TD Garden. 

Because of that, their fate remains out of their hands at the end of the season for the second straight year strictly based on a couple of different things: the first was the 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week for which there is zero excuse for from a B’s team that considered themselves playoff material and the other was the last-second goal scored by Wayne Simmonds to net the Flyers an all-important point in their overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Had the Flyers lost in regulation to the lowly Leafs, then the Bruins would have regained control of their flickering fate and could have clinched a playoff spot with a win Saturday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators.

That didn’t happen and the Bruins were left to wonder how things could have been different had they taken care of Black and Gold business in many of the previous 10 games, of which they lost an unforgivable seven in regulation.

“You know, guys, every team, almost every team in this league goes through a slump at one point in the season, and unfortunately for us we hadn’t until this last month. That’s what’s really gotten us in trouble and it’s unfortunate,” said Claude Julien. “But again you can look in the rearview mirror or you can focus on Saturday, and that’s the best thing to do right now is focus on Saturday.

“[Scoreboard watching] is just the way it is. I said it before and I’m not going to change my tune here, we created that situation and we got to live with it and take care of business the best we can here. We still continue and hope for some breaks here.”

Instead the B’s must win against Ottawa, and hope that A) the Red Wings either lose or win only in the shootout against a New York Rangers that seems very interested in being the top wild card entry into the playoffs or B) the Flyers lose one of their two remaining games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders. There’s still a chance because both Detroit and Philly haven’t been the same red-hot phenomenon that the Senators were down the stretch last season and the Flyers will need to finish strong with a grueling four games played in five days.

So, while Bruins players, management and coaches can have their fingers crossed either Detroit or Philly chokes with their playoff lives on the line, the truth is the Bruins don’t fully deserve the playoffs based on their 10-game stretch of losing in March and April. The B’s understandably weren’t ready to flog themselves after a big, emotional win over the Red Wings, but they were asked time and time again “Where was this effort?” in a winning dressing room.

The shutdown defense limited the Red Wings to 15 shots on net, and really suffocated Detroit in the final 40 minutes of the game once Boston had taken a commanding 3-0 lead. The power play kicked in a huge goal in the second period with Torey Krug snapping an epically frustrating 54-game goal-scoring slump and came through after a long period of erratic production over the last few months.

It also makes one wonder what exactly took so long for the Bruins to call up youngsters Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller, who were both featured performers in the do-or-die game after weeks of massive production at the AHL level. Or why experienced, big-game guy Max Talbot is suddenly in the Bruins lineup centering the third line after being busted down to Providence directly after the NHL trade deadline.

Could those players have helped the Bruins playing over Jimmy Hayes, Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman, who were all watching the win over Detroit from popcorn alley in the TD Garden press box?

Those are the kind of second-guesses that definitely won’t be answered now, and probably won’t be fully acknowledged if it ends disappointingly for the Black and Gold.

“We’re in the situation we’re in and we can’t look at what could have been or what would have been,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s all about where we are right now and all we can do is prepare for the next one.

“You definitely need [the killer instinct] at this time of the year and it's good that we were able to step up and show that [against the Red Wings]. It’s something that we’re going to need next game.”

Boston’s situation should tell anybody that the losses, particularly the lifeless defeat to Carolina where Marchand was left on the bench for the shootout and Tuukka Rask was outplayed by Cam Ward, loom much larger than what should have been a win over Detroit to secure their playoff life. That kind of inconsistency is a killer down the stretch, and has become a troubling pattern for a Black and Gold team that’s shown alarming fragility over the past three seasons.

It certainly feels like the B’s will harbor major regrets they couldn’t summon that kind of performance against Carolina, or in the pointless back-to-back games against the Rangers and Panthers coming out of the California trip. Or in any number of lifeless home games earlier in the season that could have made the difference for a team that might not qualify for the playoffs despite a chance to reach 95 points with a win over Ottawa Saturday afternoon.

It might also cost Julien his gig coaching the Bruins, after a mostly excellent nine-year run, if they miss the playoff cut two years in a row.

It will be a shame for every hockey fan in New England if they miss out on the Stanley Cup playoffs because the Bruins fell one point short. It will also be awfully difficult to believe the B’s players, coaches and management have learned any lessons when all of this is over because they’ll simply be once again repeating the same exact, mind-numbing mistakes that doomed them at this time a year ago. 

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

AP Photo

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

TALKING POINTS: B's resiliency on full display vs Stars

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.