You could feel it in the TD Garden on Tuesday as the Bruins (24-21-6) blew an early 2-1 lead against the Red Wings (20-19-9) and trailed 3-2 going into the third period: the walls were closing in on them. That’s what made the final result so refreshing: a 4-3 overtime victory for the home team on David Pastrnak’s one-timer with 46.9 seconds left in the extra session. Before that, Boston had been 1-16-3 in 2016-17 when they trailed after two periods. In a season already littered with bad losses, poor play against inferior teams, empty shot totals and no-shows at the Garden (11-12-0), it was promising to see the B’s change the script (at least for a night) and come out on top. The thrilling win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Bruins and alleviated some of the self-inflicted pain caused by their wretched 6-5 shootout loss in Detroit last Wednesday.
The fact that Pastrnak (20 goals, 16 assists, plus-14) scored the game-winning goal was doubly important too since he hadn’t notched a single tally in his last 18 games. “It was just a matter of time for David,” explained Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “He’s been skating well and determined around the net but I think he was feeling the pressure (of the goal-drought). We need every break that we can get; it was a frustrating game, we felt like we weren’t being rewarded (outshooting Detroit 49-26) as we should have.”
Of course, the key for the Bruins is to not get carried away with the emotion from earning two points that truthfully should be expected against a club that likely won’t be in the playoffs this spring (for the first time in 26 seasons). They will need to play much better on Thursday (7, NESN) as they host the defending champions from Pittsburgh (30-12-5) in the finale before the All-Star break this weekend. Boston’s next game after that isn’t until Tuesday (7:30, NESN) in Tampa Bay (22-22-5) so there is really no excuse not to give a full 60-minute (or more) effort against such a great opponent.
As they have for most of this uneven campaign, Boston was carried on Tuesday by its two All-Stars: left wing Brad Marchand (2 goals) and goaltender Tuukka Rask (23 saves as he returned from a migraine that shortened his start on Sunday in Pittsburgh). The B’s got some unexpected good news on Wednesday as the Penguins will be without the services of one of its All-Stars-center Evgeni Malkin (22 goals, 32 assists, plus-12) who is out with a lower-body injury while right wing Patric Hornqvist (11 goals, 16 assists, plus-13) is day-to-day with a lower-body injury of his own.
Two more points on Thursday for the Bruins is just what they need in order to go into the long weekend with a positive mindset. “When you’re down by a goal and you’ve lost the last four games, you have to step up. I told everyone (in the dressing room after the second period) to find an extra gear and we did that,” noted center Patrice Bergeron. With only 30 games remaining after the All-Star break, the B’s realize that every point is precious for them to hang in the postseason mix.