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Kuraly, Rask Help Bruins Stay Alive In Slugfest, 3-2 (2OT)

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It’s back to Boston for Game 6 after one of the weirdest playoff games you’ll ever see.

Boston Bruins v Ottawa Senators - Game Five Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

It might not have been one of the best playoff games ever, but it was certainly one of the most memorable in recent seasons. The Bruins come-from-behind, 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 last night had pretty much everything. Let’s just take this by period, otherwise we’re going to be here all morning.

First Period

On balance, this period followed the series script to date pretty well—the Bruins were slightly out-chanced in the first frame, and the Senators broke through first on a defensive breakdown by the B’s.

With the puck in the Ottawa zone near the left half-boards, Bruins DMan Joe Morrow pinched in to try and keep the puck in. He succeeded temporarily, before Ottawa’s Derick Brassard won it back behind the net. Dominic Moore had rotated back to the left point to cover for Morrow, and Noel Acciari was covering the middle of the ice as the Bruins backed off, so at this point, the Bruins were fine.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the way it stayed—Mike Hoffman took a short pass from Brassard, waited just long enough that Moore drifted towards the middle of the ice, and saucered a pass into the seam that neither Moore or Acciari was covering. Kevan Miller was, understandably, caught thinking he must have some help on the left side (Moore should have backed off to the LD position, basically), and the result was that a streaking Mark Stone received Hoffman’s laser-guided pass at the Bruins blue line—behind every Bruins skater. Stone converted on the breakaway with a nice move to the backhand—his first goal since February—and it was one-zip.

The other key blow to the Bruins during this frame? A Chris Wideman leg-on-leg hit on David Krejci. Krejci’s already been banged up and visibly so, and the Ottawa defenseman, flying in to try and stop a Krejci pass, made no effort to stop his right leg from smashing into Krejci’s left when the move Krejci made caused him to slightly overshoot the Bruins’ center. Krejci limped off, and the Bruins announced during the first intermission that he wasn’t returning. Wideman somehow avoided being penalized on the play.

Second Period

This ended up being a good twenty minutes for the Bruins, but you’d never know it by the way the period began. For the second time in 21 minutes, the Bruins completely hung Tuukka Rask out to dry, this time allowing Jean-Gabriel Pageau a clear path from the red line on in. Pageau went fivehole, and it was 2-0 a mere 30 seconds into the period. Pageau was sprung when, in an effort to keep the puck in the zone, Zdeno Chara made an ill-advised pinch behind Charlie McAvoy and didn’t get the puck, so Viktor Stalberg’s rather ordinary breakout pass left Pageau with nothing but open ice.

It was the only egregious mistake that Chara would make, en route to somehow logging 36:46 at age 40 (only the inhuman Erik Karlsson played more overall, with 41:51)—which included a whopping 7:55 on the Penalty Kill (which was perfect on the night). It was also the last time in the game that the Senators would beat Tuukka Rask, who was nothing short of brilliant overall. The Bruins also would get a gift about five minutes later when Clarke MacArthur couldn’t find the handle on a solid 2-on-1 pass, which easily could’ve been the dagger for Ottawa.

That all said, the Bruins still needed to find a way to score. The silver lining of Krejci’s departure was that it caused Bruce Cassidy to finally let David Pastrnak take some shifts with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron again—the Bruins have needed more out of their Top 6, and, sure enough, the goal that got them back in the game came from this trio. Taking a pass from Bergeron, Marchand circled the net from right-to-left, and fed a perfect backhand dish across to a net-crashing Pastrnak, who made no mistake with the open half of the net. The Bruins had finally solved Craig Anderson for the first time since Pastrnak’s Game 3 goal, and it was 2-1 8:40 into the second frame.

The Bruins had finally gotten a key marker from their top line. But the playoffs also tend to make unlikely heroes, especially when your team’s desperately trying to get back into a series and the opposing goalie’s been hot—you take ‘em anyway you can get ‘em. And Sean Kuraly (in pre-game, we suggested he only played because of a healthy scratch to Ryan Spooner, by the way - multiple sources have now suggested that this line-up decision was NOT a healthy scratch, but that Spooner was not 100% healthy), who had been buzzing on a couple shifts beforehand, played the role of unlikely hero for the Bruins last night. The first of his two goals—the first time he scored at the NHL level, mind you—was an unlikely goal, too. Taking a cycle pass from David Backes (he and Drew Stafford were sort of cycled through the line-up after Krejci leaving erased their line from existence), Kuraly banked a shot from behind the net off Chris Wide Man, off Craig Anderson, and into the net. 2-2 with three minutes to in the period, and Kuraly celebrated in the hilarious fashion that only a player who just scored his first NHL goal can. The Bruins, still being outshot 19-12 through two, somehow had found new life.

Third Period

The only period in this game where no one scored a goal (see what I did there?). Both goalies were instrumental in getting this to OT. The run of play itself was incredible lopsided: the Senators didn’t register a SOG for a stretch of 10:14, and then the Bruins almost let Kyle Turris score on a 1-on-4 chance & Dion Phaneuf hit the crossbar. It was with less than six minutes left when things started getting really weird. And, frankly, this game would never stop being bizarre afterwards.

With 5:08 remaining in regulation and the score still 2-2, Dominic Moore somehow lifted the puck past a forechecking Senator and over the glass without the puck touching either. Every team’s fans think that their team has a propensity for ill-timed, dubious third period penalties such as Puck Over Glass, but it’s pretty undeniable that the Bruins have more of a history than other clubs here, so the familiar sinking feeling that set in seemed appropriate.

However, in a heroic effort by usual suspects on the penalty kill—Bergeron, Marchand, Rask, and the pairing of Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller (who, let it be said, had pretty much as good a game as he’s ever had) prevented Ottawa from taking advantage of this lapse. The Bruins were sure to take a boost into OT and...

Well, then they took a Too Many Men penalty forty seconds after the PK was over, with 2:28 left in regulation. And it wasn’t the kind of TMM where someone jumps the gun in getting over the boards, or stupidly plays the puck on their way off, it was the kind where Cassidy (who deserves big ups for playing Kuraly, and a gold star for putting 63-37-88 together, but generally coached a pretty miserable tactical game, letting Boucher get Karlsson’s pairing on against the B’s weaker units continuously) and the coaching staff somehow forgot how to count and let a sixth Bruin go onto the ice.

So, this was the moment where the Bruins doomed themselves, not that first penalty? Well, the ending’s already kind of spoiled, but no. Said penalty killers, again, came up big, including a stretch where Patrice Bergeron cleared the puck and denied two attempted zone entries practically by himself. Somehow, after playing 4:00 of the final 5:08 shorthanded, the Bruins made it to Overtime.

OT

Remember when I said that stuff got weird? Hoo boy. Here we go.

First of all, this game never stopped being almost uncannily uneven—after a relatively back and forth first five minutes of OT, the Senators flatout dominated the Bruins for much of the first OT frame, and only Tuukka Rask’s stellar play—this was seriously one of his best games ever, as he saved 41 of 43 shots and, in case I need to remind you, those two goals were BOTH breakaways—kept their season alive. Rask was so in the zone that, despite the Bruins having problems getting their possession game together, it never really felt like he wouldn’t bail them out. Finally, the Bruins turned the run of play, and began to take it to Ottawa. Then, 14:25 into the extra frame, Noel Acciari scored on the follow-up of Kuraly’s net-drive, and we went home for Game 6.

But wait!

The referee behind the net made...no signal, despite the puck being in the net, and the officials went to the review as the Bruins celebrated what they thought had been the game-ending goal. Later, we’d find out that the ruling on the ice was No Goal due to “goaltender interference.” Kuraly had indeed made contact with Craig Anderson, but no penalty was assessed...so I’m guessing they meant “incidental contact” or...also it’s totally possible they have no idea what the hell they’re doing.

Anyhow, there was, indeed, some incidental contact. Kuraly, after flinging the puck on net, had built up such a head of steam that he couldn’t avoid making contact with Anderson. In the scrum that followed, Acciari touched the puck and a pig-pile of Sens couldn’t stop it from wobbling past the snow-angeling Anderson. And I don’t know, there’s arguments for both rulings here, and basically the fact that apparently the on-ice ruling was “No Goal” stood. If the reffing crew had ruled “Goal” on-ice, I suspect that would’ve stood.

These three things sum up my take on the play:

  1. I do believe that Anderson, after the contact, had recovered enough to voluntarily try to snow-angel the puck under his pads, and, when he did not succeed, there’s a pretty good argument that Kuraly making contact with him had little to do with what happened afterwards.
  2. There’s also a pretty good argument that a player making contact with a goalie while going full-speed is going to cause a No Goal ruling regardless of the exact chain of events afterwards.
  3. There is no “What Was He Supposed To Do?!” Clause of either the Goaltender Interference or Incidental Contact rulings. The rules have to do with whether or not the goalie has a chance to take action & make a save, not whether or not the player making contact had limited options (unless an opposing player pushes him into the goalie, which was not the case here). The world would be a better place if this argument was dropped forever. If—and I’m not saying this necessarily was the case here—you put yourself in a position where your only course of action is to make contact with the opposing goaltender, you were supposed to make a different decision earlier on that play.

Moving on, it wouldn’t matter! The Bruins ended up with an open net on a play less than a minute later. David Backes, with Anderson down and out of the play, only had to to knock the puck by a suddenly-playing-goalie Pageau, and the game would be over!

But wait!

First of all, showing the declining puck-skills that he’s frequently exhibited this year to a frustrating degree, Backes couldn’t find a way to hit the puck hard enough or less directly at Pageau to score what was a relatively frigging easy goal. Pageau stopped it. And then we went right back to bizarroland. Pageau pretty blatantly covered puck right in front of the Sens goal line, and then pushed it back under Craig Anderson. I saw it. You saw it. My grandmother saw it. The refereeing crew? Nah, somehow they didn’t see it. And, of course, because this is the NHL, where you can review whether someone was offside on a zone entry seven hours before a goal is scored, but you can’t look at whether or not someone blatantly commits a penalty-shot-worthy penalty in the godsdamn crease with the freaking game and the season on the line, the referees extensive review of the play led to...nothing.

A lot of people were mad about the previous No Goal call, understandably, but this one was the truly inexplicable horsepucky ruling. How no official on the ice could see that Pageau had covered the puck in the crease is really just beyond me. And if it’s one of those cases where it’s “not a call the refs will make at the end of a game,” then go hire better refs who will enforce the rules. That wasn’t a player being offside by a centimeter, it was a guy saving a goal in an elimination game in a playoff series. The Bruins 100% should have had a chance to win it on a penalty shot vs. Anderson.

And you know, really I could probably stand it if one of these things had happened, but both was almost too much to deal with. It felt like the Bruins had earned a break on one of these two plays, at least, and they got nothing.

The game would remain tied, so we went to a second OT period.

2OT

At 10:19 of the second OT period, after an hour-and-a-half of knock-down, drag-out hockey and ridiculously stressful situations, Sean Kuraly scored again. This time it was a more conventional goal, tapping in a backhand effort after David Backes had tipped a McAvoy point shot. The Bruins could finally celebrate, taking home a 3-2 win.

But wait!

Nah, I’m just messing with you. It really did count this time. Sean Kuraly’s the hero of the hour, and Game 6 is in Boston tomorrow at 3 PM.