From start to finish, Thursday's hockey game at TD Garden felt like something out of the postseason as the Bruins and Blues traded scoring chances, big hits and timely saves. This being the age of no ties, there had to be a winner and a loser so St. Louis (15-3-3) came out on top, 3-2, in a shootout against Boston (14-6-2). The B’s earned the cheesy point but you can bet they’ll be happy when the NHL decides to change the overtime format starting next season (still in discussion about the specific possibilities).
“I think we deserved better,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “It’s been a while since we played a solid 60 minutes like we did tonight. We should be happy with the effort but it still feels like a loss.”
Boston scored first as Gregory Campbell one-timed a beautiful pass by Torey Krug late in the first period. Campbell actually didn’t get nearly all of it but the puck found a way to sneak past Jaroslav Halak (29 saves). If you thought that was fluky (and it was), St. Louis’ first strike was even stranger as Derek Roy’s attempted pass (that was moving in slow motion) somehow went through Tuukka Rask’s (24 saves) five-hole 31 seconds later.
The Blues took a 2-1 lead late in the second period as David Backes tipped home BU product Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot from the point. This time it was the Bruins’ turn to quickly respond as Carl Soderberg tied it less than three minutes later. A strong cycle by Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith resulted in Soderberg’s strong shot from the slot.
Each club only had one power play, in the third period no less, but both goaltenders stood tall for the rest of regulation and overtime. Halak had back-to-back impressive saves on Smith and Soderberg. In the extra session, things opened up more as Derek Roy had a breakaway but shot the puck off the crossbar. Kelly and Loui Eriksson also probably should have ended it but they couldn’t.
In the shootout, Patrice Bergeron led off with a goal but the next three Bruins were all denied. Alexander Steen tied it for the Blues and eventually Roy won it in the fourth round. Boston is back in action on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) vs. Carolina (8-10-4).
What they'll be saying: With Dennis Seidenberg out, Kevan Miller made his NHL debut for the Bruins and he acquitted himself quite well. In 17:42, he was plus-1 with two hits, two blocked shots and a takeaway. After playing for the Providence Bruins for the last three years (after four years at University of Vermont), Miller didn’t look out of place at all. His performance had to be reassuring for Boston’s front office. It sounds like Adam McQuaid (who missed his sixth straight game) could be back on Saturday. Playing their third game in four nights, particularly against a team that mirrors them in so many ways, the B’s had their hands full but they put together one of their better all-around efforts of the season. Playing like that will win them plenty of games, there aren’t many teams as good as the Blues in the NHL, especially in the Eastern Conference. Rask has earned a breather, I’d be shocked if Chad Johnson doesn’t get the start on Saturday. A matinee vs. the Hurricanes is what backup goaltenders live for.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate