Squeaking out a 3-2 win at the MTS Centre, the Bruins showed off this year's continued commitment to playing heart attack hockey, going through the vast majority of the game tied or within one, unable to open up a lead. As if to illustrate the razor thin margins the team's been pulling off victories by this season, this one went down to the dying milliseconds. Old pal Blake Wheeler got a literally last second shot on goal that trickled along the line, but an emphatic call of no-goal on the ice preserved the victory.
The Play by Play
The first period opened with good energy from the top two lines, featuring dangerous early rushes from Marchand, Peverley and Hamilton. Even the newly reconfigured third line seemed poised to take advantage, with ample offensive zone time and some solid performances from Bourque on his off-wing.
A soft cross-checking penalty on Thornton would turn the momentum in Winnipeg's favor, giving way to a discombobulated PK that ended in a wild behind-the-net bid steered to safety by Rask's alert paddle. The balance of the period seemed to devolve into a duel of the third lines, each trading time in each other's end of the ice.
After a scoreless first, the floodgates gave way on a Burmistrov wrister, firing home a lively rebound from a Bogosian point shot. Dougie Hamilton would complain after the play that he got his stick chicken-winged by Burmistrov, preventing him from defending. Let this serve as a teachable moment for the rookie: gotta fight for your space, son.
Half a period later, Tyler Seguin tied it up, tipping a soft lob from Chara with Marchand screening in front. Toronto decided to mull this one over, giving it a long review for the height of Seguin's stick, but the goal would stand.
Evander Kane would restore the Winnipeg lead in the final minute. A D-pair communication disaster between Seidenberg and McQuaid emerged as Antropov and Burmistrov crossed over at the blue line, drawing McQuaid away from his man and opening up Antropov to skate into space in the corner. Both defensemen followed, and Antropov was able to feed pass into the slot for Kane to hammer home.
However, moments later Dan Paille gets redemption, getting a tip on a Johnny Rocket set up by Chris Kelly's zone entry to take a tie into the room with a mere two seconds remaining on the clock.
Intent to pick up where they left off, the Bruins employed a favorite set play off the faceoff, winning the draw back to Chara to feed a hard-charging Marchand up the middle past flat-footed D, only to get hauled down on the doorstep. Penalty shot denied, he would get payback on his next shift, backhanding the puck past Pavelec off a Bergeron feed for a little karmic retribution and the team's second powerplay goal in as many games. Just 38 seconds would tick off the clock between Bruins goals.
In spite of a mid-period push by Winnipeg in which it seemed the puck would never leave the defensive zone, the Bruins hung tough through 10 minutes of nail-biting defensive hockey, including a late PK on a tripping penalty to Rich Peverley, to hold the door. Failure to go for the jugular with an empty net goal almost backfired, but thankfully Wheeler's timing has never been all that good...
- Johnny Boychuk, having had his fair share of boneheaded games this year, had a rock solid night. Aside from the game-tying assist he was also Johnny-on-the-spot in a couple of game saving moments, including saving Chara's bacon on a third period breakdown to keep Wheeler off the board. He was also on the scene to ensure Wheeler's final scoring chance didn't produce - it would prove unnecessary, but the effort is appreciated.
- Brad Marchand continues to produce, but how much longer can we expect it to last? He's now shooting at 47%! Nearly half of the kid's shots are going in! Is he sapping Bergeron's mojo like some kind of scoring-mojo vampire? What gives? Enjoy it while it lasts, regression lies ahead.
- Tuukka wasn't called upon to make an exorbitant number of saves, but he was brilliant through much of the game, particularly in the third period, sliding post to post to turn aside Ladd's rebound chance, and on the 1st period's aforementioned behind--the-net shot. He was victimized by the blueline corps' mistakes on both goals against - blame to Hamilton and McQuaid.
- Fine, I'll say it: Jay Pandolfo didn't implode. Unsurprisingly getting a paltry handful of minutes, the veteran acquited himself and earned some PK time during a critical third period kill - during which he set up (though couldn't execute) a two-on-one shorthanded rush. He didn't record a shot, but did set the tone with a team lead in hits.
- Understandably out of sync due to the injury to Tobias Enstrom, the Winnipeg D had an iffy night. Hainsey and Byfuglien looked shaky through initial shifts, though eventually found their footing to beat back the sharp early offerings of the B's top lines. Paul Postma appeared to have confused the puck with a grenade and found himself keyed-on by the Boston forecheck throughout the night. The third period desperation rush showed some savvy for jumping into the play, but too little, too late.
- Hate to say it, but Patrice had a rough evening. He registered no official shots, in spite of having a few good-looking bids just off net. He also got owned at the face-off dot, particularly by Bryan Little.
- The Burmistrov line gave the Bruins fits all night, producing both of the Winnipeg goals. Evander Kane would also log a game-high six shots on goal, not including his others that are going to show up on the Fenwick chart.
- Perhaps a return to my old Claude-hating days, but I have to give a minus to the bench boss for giving Chris Bourque 15 minutes of ice time and over 14 at evens. He usually gets under 10. I understand he was having a decent game, but I for one don't like to see a gambling man making personnel decisions. Bourque would spend the third on the first line. Pray this never happen again, because it likely won't end as well as it did tonight. Less alarmingly, but still unusual, Chris Kelly also saw 16 minutes at ES.