BOSTON – Say what you will about the Bruins for the lack of style points involved, but the Black and Gold are doing what they have to do until their No. 1 defenseman comes back.
The Bruins played a sleepy, uninspired brand of hockey for 40-plus minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night and would have ended up with one of their most disappointing losses of the season had it ended just as sleepily.
Instead, the Bruins pulled Anton Khudobin, exerted the full court press on the Hurricanes in 6-on-5 time and scored a gritty, greasy goal on a Torey Krug point shot kicked in by Teuvo Teravainen with 32 seconds left in the third period.
That led to a 2-1 shootout win for the Bruins at TD Garden and a second consecutive game where the B’s pulled important, necessary points out when they trailed going into the third period.
The win pushed them ahead of Tampa Bay and Philadelphia and back into the playoff standings, and makes them 2-2-1 without Zdeno Chara with the Bruins captain’s return clearly on the horizon.
The Bruins have allowed only nine goals in the five games without Chara and haven’t buckled much at all defensively. Clearly, it’s been a major struggle to manufacture goals as it’s been most of the season, but the Black and Gold are finding a way to grind through it right now.
“You just need performances like that. Tonight, we got them. I think that’s a little bit of a wakeup call we needed in between the second and the third [period]. To come out, lay it on the line, and know we had a one-goal game at home and we needed to get two points out of this game, find a way,” said David Backes, who was instrumental in the tying goal while fighting in front with Teravainen as the Hurricanes forward kicked the puck in the net. “We need a better performance against Buffalo, but two points is two points. We’ll take them however we get them right now. We have to regroup and come for a full 60 minutes in Buffalo [on Saturday afternoon], or else we can’t live by the skin of our teeth like this for long. It’ll come back and bite us.
“To see that puck rolling into the net, that’s what it’s all about. We should celebrate that goal as hard as any other that we score because it’s a six-man unit that had to get it in there. We’re working it around, winning battles, and a blast, and then a scrum in front. Those are the ugly goals we need to have. Again, we’ll take them any way we can get them. The ugly ones count just like the pretty ones. We were able to push that into overtime, get the one point, and again, take care of business in the shootout.”
Certainly, the Bruins made the adjustment after losing in the shootout in Philadelphia and went with their best (David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand) in the top-three shooters while watching both Ryan Spooner and Pastrnak score early for the full two-point win. Still, it’s been even more about Bruins players stepping up with Chara and John-Michael Liles out, and Torey Krug has been playing his best hockey of the season when the Bruins needed him most.
It was Krug’s point blast that was eventually kicked into the net by Teravainen for the tying goal in the final seconds of the third period. The undersized D-man ended up with a whopping 28:07 of ice time and a team-high six shots on net. Krug now has a goal and five points in his past three games along with a plus-4 rating, and he’s generating enough offense to trump the occasional rough shift that’s just going to happen with D-man partner Adam McQuaid.
“We’ve been dominant at times in the offensive zone over the past few games and [against Carolina] wasn’t our prettiest game; it wasn’t necessarily a good game by our standards,” said Krug. “But those are goals throughout the season that you feel like you earn and you deserve. So, we worked and we worked and it didn’t matter how long it took in the third; we were hoping it would pay off and it did.
“I think just pucks are going in, as silly as that sounds. I feel like from an individual standpoint I’ve been focusing on hitting the net for a while, and trying to make some plays and all the sudden the puck is going in. Whether that’s funky bounces or just guys taking advantage of chances I can create – it’s good. But, I’ve been focusing on defense the past few games and I’ve been given some advice and focusing on the defense and all the sudden it’s like the offensive opportunities are just appearing out of nowhere. So that’s kind of been my thought process.”
It was Krug’s turnover after falling down at the blue line that allowed the 3-on-none breakaway for Jeff Skinner that eventually turned into Noah Hanifin’s scoring point blast in the second period. But the hard-nosed defenseman simply worked to make up for it with the tying goal late in the game, then watched his teammates do the rest with stellar goaltending and some skilled scoring work in the shootout.
That’s exactly the kind of in-game resiliency that’s allowing the Bruins to get points out of games where it hasn’t necessarily looked great entering the final 20 minutes and it’s what is keeping them afloat with some big pieces still missing from their lineup.
So, while there weren’t any moments of dominance or gaudy shot total advantages for the Bruins against the Hurricanes, Thursday night’s shootout win is exactly the kind of grinding game that will help Boston when counting out all those points for a playoff spot in April.
That’s what it’s all about for the Black and Gold much more than impressing the style judges in an otherwise nondescript midweek game against Carolina that won’t be remembered by much of anybody now that it’s in the rear view.