Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was giving a lackluster performance in Monday night's Game 2 against the Washington Capitals through the end of regulation, but it only took 39 seconds in overtime for him to flip the script.
B's defenseman Matt Grzelcyk fed a tremendous cross-ice pass to Marchand, who rocketed a shot past Capitals goalie Craig Anderson to give the Bruins a 4-3 win and even the first-round Stanley Cup Playoff matchup at a game apiece with the series shifting to Boston for Wednesday night's Game 3.
The first 125 minutes of the series were mostly a struggle for Marchand. He failed to get on the scoresheet and tallied only one shot on net in Game 1. Game 2 was more of the same, with Marchand having just one shot during 5-on-5 action entering overtime.
Marchand also took two penalties in regulation, including a very avoidable slashing minor in the second period. Putting the Capitals on the power play -- with the league's third-best unit in the regular season at 24.8 percent -- is a dangerous game for the Bruins to be playing, and they need better discipline from their most experienced players like Marchand.
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As Bruins fans know well, you have to take the good with the bad in regards to Marchand. He sometimes plays on the edge, but he's gotten a lot better at weathering the rough patches and breaking through.
Game 2 was a great example of him staying the course and eventually being a difference-maker.
"I don't worry about Marchand," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. "He's going to periodically push back. He's in the middle of everything. He's got to defend himself. He's doing a lot better now with how he's taking penalties. I've got a lot of faith, trust and loyalty to Brad. There's way more good than bad.
"I think he wanted to drag us into the fight, and we needed it tonight because we didn't start on time. Him and (Bergeron) certainly are guys who will do that. That's Brad, I think he's matured enough now not to take himself out of the game. Maybe that would've been a game in the past where he lets it get to him and wouldn't have been an effective player, but he found his game, and it was a big part of the win with the overtime goal."
Luckily for the Bruins, they have a great leader in captain Patrice Bergeron who can identify when his linemate needs to be reminded of the way the team needs to play to be successful.
“Bergy, in situations like that, will grab me and kind of reel me back in like he did,” Marchand said “That’s just part of it. We’re on the biggest stage right now and we've got to stay out of the box in these games. I've got to do a little bit better job there than I did tonight.”
Marchand is an enormously important player for the Bruins. He's arguably the best left winger in the world and scored at a point-per-game rate or better for the fifth consecutive year with a team-leading 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) in 53 regular season games.
It's hard to envision the Bruins making a deep playoff run without Marchand and the rest of his line (Bergeron and David Pastrnak) generating offense at a consistent level. This group passed its first test of the 2021 playoffs by bouncing back from an awful Game 1 and scoring two goals Monday night -- one each from Marchand and Bergeron.
It wasn't surprising, either, and not just because these are elite players. This Bruins team has responded really well to challenges all season. They never lost more than two consecutive games in the regular season and won 15 of their 22 games following a defeat.
“I think that’s something that our group is so good about. We don’t panic throughout games,” Marchand said. “We have so much character in our room, and you can sense it all the way through the bench and during the timeouts and in the room.
"There’s a sense of calm when things aren’t going our way. That’s why we have (Tuukka Rask) back there to kind of bail us out in situations like that, and give us a minute to find our game. That’s what happened. At this time of the year, it's about competing. That's what we did tonight. We found our game.”