For one period, the game between the Boston Bruins and the Dallas Stars appeared to be going the way of the November 3rd meeting at TD Garden, and also the way that far too many games have gone this year against good teams. That is, it looked like the Bruins, for all that they were doing well, were destined to fall behind and never mount a serious rally. Maybe the loss against the Nashville Predators signaled the beginning of a new cold streak for this up-and-down squad.
Of course, if you watched at all, you know this didn't happen. In a refreshing turn of events, the Bruins unleashed the beast against Dallas from the beginning of the second period on, and really never let up until the two points were actually banked.
As has so often been the case of late, Brad Marchand was the catalyst for a Boston surge. The speedy winger had already passed his previous career-high by potting the Bruins' lone goal of the first period, a twenty minutes which had seen Boston under siege and down 3-1 after a couple of goals both bizarre and controversial in equal measure. Not content to wait around for his 30th, Marchand took matters into his own hands at the end of a Boston power play and scored on a wicked snap-release from above the left circle past Kari Lehtonen. Suddenly a game that had been breaking Dallas's way was 3-2 with 26 minutes to play, and the Bruins had new life.
If the goal that made it 3-2 was a somewhat expected outcome--Marchand has repeatedly rewarded management for not being dumb enough to move him elsewhere, especially this season--the game-tying one came for an unlikely source. As with Marchand's, it was a long-shot. Unlike Marchand's crisp snap shot, Kevan Miller's goal from the right point actually bounced before it skipped by Lehtonen. Lehtonen, who was at least partially screened by Joonas Kemppainen and Jordie Benn, made a weak attempt at a save where he was caught leaning the wrong way. It was a weird goal on a night that saw more than its share of weird goals, but credit Kevan Miller, who has at least managed to up his offensive production from last year.
3-3. The tables had turned in less than a minute, and the Bruins weren't done. The surge really continued towards the end of the period, as Dallas was left scrambling for answers and largely finding none. To put the exclamation point on the Bruins' stellar second period, Loui Eriksson managed to whack a rebound through Lehtonen with less than a minute left in the period for a 4-3 lead. The referee initially waved it off, then found on replay that Eriksson's distinct kicking motion wasn't the last time he'd touched the puck, and that Lehtonen--who really, it must be said, was the Stars' biggest problem on the night--had never actually held the puck.
With Tuukka Rask heating up after being victimized by some weirdness in the first, the Bruins had to be thinking that whatever adjustments they'd made had fully paid off. In other words, the way the Bruins came out guns blazing, and the way Zdeno Chara's pairing essentially erased the super-productive Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Ales Hemsky unit for the second twenty minutes, the B's fully deserved to be holding a lead going into the third.
As the title (spoiler) might indicate to you, the Bruins never really looked back. On a night where Joe Morrow was in the line-up for Zach Trotman and Ryan Spooner was ill. bumping Kempainnen up a line, the Bruins played about as close to a lock-down third period as they've played with a lead all season long. Yes, the Stars did generate some chances finally, but most of them came after David Krejci's 14th goal of the season put the Bruins up 5-3 on the Power Play with 15:10 remaining. And despite several surges by Dallas, the Bruins were able to lock down this game in a way they haven't been able to do in the past.
From there, it was a Brett Connolly ENG that would also see Patrice Bergeron's 600th career point, and Matt Beleskey tallying the Bruins third PPG of the game in the waning seconds off a rebound scramble to round out the scoring. For a team that sometimes can look helpless against well-coordinated opposing attacks or structured forechecks, the Bruins basically dismantled a very good team for the final 40 minutes. They were also able to limit the Stars' prolific duo of Benn and Seguin to one combined point, which came on Benn's secondary assist on the first Stars goal, which is no small feat.
Dallas had taken the early lead on an Ales Hemsky snipe , then seen Marchand's aforementioned 29th goal tie the game up two minutes later. From there, things got weird, and we can only just shake our heads and thank the puckluck gods and the Bruins potent offense and whoever else that the next two Dallas goals didn't end up being the talking points of the game.
First, there was an incredibly blatant goaltender interference on Dallas's second goal that the referees somehow missed in real-time, missed when they reviewed the goal themselves (though I guess they were only checking to see if Antoine Roussel had contacted the puck above the crossbar? But still...), and completed the hat-trick of baffling incompetence by ruling a good goal even after Claude Julien (correctly) challenged the ruling. Please, please don't ask me how an officiating crew gets that many looks at a play and still screws it up. The NHL, folks.
Secondly, there was a goal that turned out to be a legal tally for Dallas that was almost too weird to accurately describe. My attempt: the Bruins allowed Patrick Sharp to slip behind their defense, and Tuukka Rask managed to make a stellar initial stop on Sharp's shot. As goalies often are on breakaway attempts, Rask was off-balance, though, and the puck trickled through him towards the goal-line. Because Rask is a good goalie, he realized this and fell backward to corral it before the puck crossed the line. He did, and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid also hustled back and aided Rask by pulling the puck--well, actually kinda just Tuukka's glove--out away from the goal-line.
McQuaid's momentum carried him too far, though, and he ended up making contact with the puck with his left skate. Whether totally luckless for McQuaid or just bad awareness on his part--I'll go with a bit of column A and a bit of column B, that contact knocked the puck past the sprawled Rask (who at this point must've been thinking that his crease was cursed) and into the Bruins net. That last part happened just as McQuaid's momentum carried him into the left (defensively speaking) post, knocking the net off. The referee signalled good goal, but this one also got reviewed.
The referee claimed that McQuaid's action of knocking the net off was purposeful, and thus the goal was good. For one, that's not what the rule says, so that was a piss poor job of explaining the why of the goal standing as called, even if the ruling was correct.
...so the goal should've counted, but on the basis that even incidental contact with the post as the puck is going in doesn't nullify the goal counting if, in the judgment of the referee, the puck's going in as this occurs. That was an accurate description of what happened; purpose doesn't matter in that situation, so it was a Dallas goal. But my goodness, if I've ever seen two goal/no-goal calls/reviews that strange and that badly-handled back-to-back, I've forgotten when it happened before tonight.
This theater of the bizarre thankfully set the stage for the Bruins stifling, offensively prolific rampage in the final two periods, after the Bruins went to the locker room at the first intermission down 3-1.
- Again, if you missed it earlier, the Bruins defense managed to give Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin fits, and a good part of was due to Zdeno Chara throwback night. While Chara's clearly in the decline phase of his Hall of Fame career, rumors of his ineffectiveness have been greatly exaggerated. Particularly in the last 40 minutes of this game, this couldn't have been more clear from how well Z directed traffic at one end and kept the puck moving towards the other, specifically against the Stars top unit. Benn and Seguin were swamped with Z on the ice, despite Chara eating mostly defensive zone starts (the raw possession numbers reflect this last part, as once Dallas started to surge in the mid-third, as teams down a goal or two typically do no matter how well you're playing, only then did Zdeno Chara and, to a lesser extent, Kevan Miller come under siege.
- The Power Play woke up. While it's natural to expected Bruins to finish somewhere south of 30% in terms of PP conversion rate, it'd been slumping lately to the point where a breakout was much-needed. Of the three power play goals, only one wasn't a huge score at the time, the first two being Brad Marchand's get-back-in-it special and David Krejci's deflected point shot that effectively iced the game for the Bruins.
- Tuukka Rask was, again, very unlucky to be charged with three goals against in light of the crappy call on Dallas's second marker, but the Bruins goalie, as the rest of the team did, turned it on in the final 40 minutes. When the Stars actually managed to find ways through the Bruins' improved neutral zone play, they found the net too small for Rask to surrender anything more. Goaltending is weird, and this was a good example of why small samples can be deceptive; Rask played just fine and Dallas scored on him three times, whereas Pekka Rinne earned one the least-challenged shutouts you'll see in Thursday night's loss to the Nashville Predators. The Bruins hung 7 goals on a superior team after scoring 0 against the fringey Preds. Goaltending is voodoo, hockey is weird.
- Patrice Bergeron, in case you missed it already, scored his 600th career NHL point in assisting on Connolly's ENG. He is very, very good at hockey.
- Torey Krug sustained some type of injury--appeared to be his side or arm? it was weird--when was hit awkwardly by Jason Demers late in the game. He went down the tunnel, and we didn't have an update before the game was over. Boston obviously can't afford to lose many D-Men, and Krug's done his usual third-pairing, power-play work effectively. Here's hoping he's okay.