Calling a game in November a must-win contest can seem premature, but it might as well have been for the Boston Bruins against the lowly Vancouver Canucks Sunday.
The Bruins, who entering Sunday had played a league-low 17 games, couldn't afford to turn in a clunker against the last-place Canucks at TD Garden. Thanks in part to a trio of players who've risen to the occasion more often than not for the better part of a decade now, Boston avoid a letdown with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Vancouver to improve to 11-7 on the season.
Brad Marchand scored a game-tying power play goal 8:46 into the third period and had the helper on David Pastrnak's game-winner, also on the power play, at 16:36.
Here are some takeaways from the win for the Bruins, who won their first game at home since Nov. 14:
Power play bails out B's, again
Once again, Marchand was the best player on the ice for either team.
But it took the Bruins to be on the man advantage twice for his efforts to show through on the scoresheet against a truly dreadful Canucks team (6-14-2) that has fewer points than all but three other NHL teams.
That's not an indictment on Marchand, of course, but it speaks to the disappointing play of several other players further down the depth chart that Boston was once again in a position where it needed Marchand, Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron (assists on both power play goals) to bail the Bruins out late.
That formula has caught up with the team in each of the last several postseasons, and there's no reason to think it won't rear its head again without better play from the second and third lines in particular.
Jaroslav Halak offers reminder of alternate path for B's in net
Halak was mediocre for the Bruins in 2020-21 as Tuukka Rask's primary backup, positing a 2.53 goals against average and .905 save percentage and losing his job to Jeremy Swayman down the stretch.
Entering play Sunday, Halak's play had declined a bit further -- while playing behind an inferior roster, of course -- turning in a 2.79 GAA and .903 SV% over five appearances -- numbers not that far off from Linus Ullmark's 2.87, .908 through seven games.
Halak made a season-high 39 saves against the Bruins Sunday; Ullmark matched a season-high with 36 stops, including a massive stop on a breakaway by Tyler Motte midway through the third period.
All of this to say: Would bringing back Halak on a one-year, $3 million deal like the one he got from Vancouver have been a more fiscally responsible move than signing Ullmark to a four-year, $20 million pact? Do the Bruins hold onto Dan Vladar if they're hanging with Halak? How would all of this impact the possible return of Tuukka Rask in January?
These are all questions that will be answered over the course of the full season, but for one night with Halak back in town, you can't help but wonder what the B's would look like if they'd allocated additional resources elsewhere on the roster and maintained the status quo in goal.
Lineup shuffle has minimal impact
Both Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula deserved to sit, that much is clear. DeBrusk had gone three straight games without a point and five games without a goal, while Haula has been one of the most disappointing players on the entire roster with just three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and a minus-5 rating over 17 games after signing as a free agent.
Trouble is...their replacements didn't do much of anything, either. Trent Frederic, returning to the lineup after missing seven games due to a concussion, registered no points in 11:50 of ice time at center, losing six of his seven faceoffs, and Karson Kuhlman likewise turned in a goose egg in 11:38.
Frederic did have a few nice scoring chances while playing his natural center position; in 10 games on the wing this season, Frederic had registered just one assist.
The Bruins finish off a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings with a 7 p.m. ET puck drop. Boston is 1-0 against Detroit this season, with a 5-1 win over the Red Wings on Nov. 4 at home.