Some might have erred on the side of caution and held David Pastrnak out of Game 5 with the B’s up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, but that’s not what happened in Wednesday’s 2-1 clinching win for the Boston Bruins.
Instead the 24-year-old right winger suited up for the Bruins, notched a couple assists on the power play and jelled with new PP addition David Krejci to push the B’s over the top in eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes from the playoffs.
The Canes certainly roughed up Pastrnak a little in the opening minutes to test whether his upper body injury was truly all healed up after he’d missed the previous three games, but Pastrnak looked healthy, played 20:28 of ice time (tops among all B’s forwards) and finished second on the B’s with five shots on net.
After the game, Pastrnak said he felt good and will be good to go in Boston's second-round series not expected to begin until the first few days of next week.
“I definitely obviously felt better every shift,” said Pastrnak, who finished with a goal and four points in the two games he played in the series. “It was good to be back with the guys. Anytime you’re watching the games from the stands, it’s tough. Really happy I was back and a great series.”
It wasn’t just Pastrnak’s presence, though. He was involved in the offense for all the scoring Boston would need to beat the Hurricanes.
Pastrnak was jamming in front of the net on the first scoring PP when Patrice Bergeron fired a puck into the pile that bounced off Pasta’s skate and went directly onto Krejci’s stick for the power play goal. The game-winner was Pastrnak’s wide shot off the end boards that caromed to Bergeron for his heads up goal thrown at the feet of an unsuspecting Petr Mrazek with seconds remaining on the second period clock.
“With Pasta not having a lot of reps, I think you saw the puck move around to the other side [of the power play] a little bit more because those guys are more into the game flow of things. Pasta certainly did his job on it, got to the front of the net, couple of good shots, obviously picked up a couple helpers on it, made some good plays,” said Bruce Cassidy about Pastrnak's performance. “So that was a part of the game we were hoping he’d get back quickly, his hands, and he’s going to need to get his legs under him and his battle level up.”
Mission accomplished for Boston’s resident game-breaker.
In both instances, Pastrnak wasn’t the finisher like he usually is, but instead used his skill and hockey smarts to play the role of play-maker or gritty competitor to net goals for both Krejci and Bergeron in the victory. Clearly the Bruins will need more goal-scoring production and dominating offense as they go deeper in the tournament, but for now it was an encouraging first step to see Pastrnak back, healthy and ready to push Boston back up to full strength.