Here’s a question, and be honest with yourselves…Who watched the NHL All-Star game this past Sunday?
For those of you that answered in the affirmative, you witnessed a spectacle that was perhaps comical? Unique? Entertaining? Embarrassing? Regardless of the adjective you would like to associate with the events of the weekend, we can now get back to focusing on hockey that matters.
There is no other team out there that feels as strongly about that fact as do the Boston Bruins.
Prior to the All-Star break, the B’s had won five-out-of-six before dropping a game at home in rather stunning fashion to the Anaheim Ducks. Despite the sour taste left in the mouths of the players, the page has been turned to the second half of the regular season.
On Tuesday night, the B’s returned to the TD Garden to host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a divisional tilt. The Bruins entered the night just one point out of second place in a very competitive and congested Atlantic Division, so getting two points on this night became vital early on.
“With the way things are in the standings, games like this mean a lot,” said Brad Marchand. “Games like this will be what things will come down to at the end of the year.”
As for the Leafs, they sit in the basement of the division in a rebuilding year. The motivation for Toronto for this game was to play spoiler and give Boston a fighting effort as the teams always seem to do with each other. Either way, this was fixing to be a great game between two teams that know each other all too well.
Tuukka Rask (17-15-4, 2.49 GAA, .917 SV%) opposed James Reimer (8-8-6, 2.10 GAA, .932 SV%) in the goaltending matchup for this one. This night marked Reimer’s 200th career NHL game, so the Bruins were looking to put a damper on that personal milestone.
In the first period, both teams absolutely came out fresh. The speed of play and lack of whistles deemed it necessary to make constant changes from the bench. The Bruins were getting into the Toronto zone rather cleanly, which should not have come as a surprise considering that the Toronto defense is a hindrance. The persistence of the Bruins eventually led to the first goal of the game scored by Marchand in the vulnerable minute for the Leafs following a successful penalty kill. That was his team-leading 21st goal of the year. He benefited from a loose rebound in front of the net.
Things seemed to level off a bit as the period progressed. The Maple Leafs did get a couple of chances, but Rask came up with some “Tuuuuuuukka” moments for his team. All and all, a relatively even opening 20 minutes of play. The Bruins possessed a 21-8-0 record when scoring the first goal this season entering Tuesday night.
As far as the second period, it took a bit of time for the pace to quicken. The Leafs have a little bit more speed up front, so that was beneficial when it came to chasing down loose pucks. Toronto eventually tied the game on a tipped shot from Daniel Winnik. Despite a brief scrum at the conclusion of the period, a rather uneventful second 20 minutes. Shots were 24-22 in favor of Boston after two periods.
In the third period, the Bruins tried to ensure that this was going to be their game for the taking. Marchand added his 22nd goal of the season just seconds into the period, immediately followed by David Krejci recording his 12th of the year to put the Bruins up by two. Forced into a tough spot, the Leafs got some momentum back on their side and pulled even when Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri both beat Rask on tipped shots.
“We knew they love to shoot from the outside and we did not defend that shot well all game long,” said head coach Claude Julien in regards to the three tipped goals allowed by the Bruins.
With that type of complacency shown by the B’s, the Leafs were destined to take the two points. P.A. Parenteau netted the game winner in overtime to steal a victory on the road. Arguably, this was Toronto’s best win all season.
“I do not think we were relaxed. I think it was a puck management issue,” said Julien. “We shot ourselves in the foot by playing it safe.”
Boston now has blown two-goal leads in seven games this season, five of them resulted in losses. On the plus side, Marchand, Krejci, and David Pastrnak all had multi-point games.
“We had a great start to the third period but we let the lead slip away. We did not defend well in front of the net,” said Dennis Seidenberg.
Up next for the Bruins will be a home-and-home series against the Buffalo Sabres, which will begin Thursday night on the road.
Lineup for Feb. 2 vs. TOR
Loui Eriksson-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Brett Connolly
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Zac Rinaldo-Max Talbot-Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg-Colin Miller
Torey Krug-Kevan Miller
Side Notes…David Pastrnak was recalled from Providence after spending the last week going through a conditioning assignment…..Jonas Gustavsson was placed on injured reserve due to his elevated heart rate scare he had on Jan. 26th against Anaheim. He practiced with the team earlier in the day…..This was Malcolm Subban’s first recall of the season…..Entering Tuesday night, the Bruins were unbeaten against the Leafs this season with one more meeting to take place between the two teams…..Loui Eriksson is just three goals shy of his 200th NHL goal.