BOSTON — Zach Parise continued to cautiously back up. That’s where it all went wrong.
Torey Krug motored through the neutral zone with a full head of stream, content to take the space given to him by the nonchalant opposition. In his game back after missing five due to an upper-body injury, Krug’s conditioning paid dividends as he was able to speed past the flatfooted Parise. Brad Hunt and Luke Kunin were not prepared for the fast charging Krug, as they motionlessly patrolled either side of the blue line, shadowing their respective counterparts. The three Wild players on the ice were just as defensively helpful as a turnstile.
“It was like the parting of the Red Sea”, said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean, you can’t skate untouched right through the middle of the ice.”
Once Krug put his head down, he was off to the races. Krug shrugged off half-hearted stick checks, dragged the puck to his backhand and snuck through the legs of Wild goaltender Alex Stalock. With the end-to-end effort, the Bruins capped off an incredible comeback which featured two David Krejci goals in the final two minutes to force overtime.
The Bruins gained life after Tuukka Rask stonewalled Jason Zucker on a breakaway attempt, which kept the game at a 4-2 score with under 180 seconds remaining. Less than a minute later, the Bruins capitalized on the 6-on-5 advantage. David Pastrnak’s whiff on a slap shot attempt bounced around in front until it found Patrice Bergeron, who touched it to a wide open David Krejci. Krejci received the alley-oop and punched it in. One goal game.
Kunin quickly took a tripping penalty and at that point it appeared that the stars had aligned for a tying goal. On the 6-on-4 power play, Bergeron’s stick snapped and he was forced to go back to the bench and retrieve fresh lumber. The Bruins retained possession around the edges of the umbrella, finding Bergeron as he re-entered the attacking zone. The Wild penalty killers submerged beyond the tops of the circles as Bergeron used his momentum to carry him in with a head of steam, finding Krejci who had tailed off to a soft spot down low on the left side. Krejci uncorked a rocket, blasting the puck by Stalock and sending TD Garden into a frenzy.
“Just trying to have a look at what’s in front of me,” said Patrice Bergeron, on what was going through his head upon retrieving a new stick and getting back into the play. “We have two extra guys so there should be some guys open. The puck came to me and I was just trying to make guys commit to me on that shot and give it right back to [Krejci]. David [Krejci] did an amazing job of keep coming down and give himself a really tough angle on that goalie.”
The ending was miraculous in itself, but the Bruins had been stymied for the 58 minutes prior by committing an egregious amount of penalties on an energized and physical Wild team. The B’s were flagged for seven penalties, two of which resulted in Minnesota goals.
“There was a time where I thought, ‘Boy [Tim] Peel and [Steve] Kozari are their best two players tonight,” said Bruce Cassidy, referencing the game’s officials.
The Bruins’ lack of discipline crushed any momentum that they could accumulate. The Bruins were largely outplayed in the first period, highlighted by taking three penalties (four if the matching Marchand/Dumba minors are included) in the first thirteen minutes.
“It’s just hard for a [David] Pastrnak, a [Jake] DeBrusk, [David] Krejci, guys who don’t kill,” said Cassidy, regarding the multitude of penalties taken. “It’s hard for them to stay in the game, they get frustrated, they want to get out there and as soon as their line’s up, another penalty comes up and it takes away from a [Torey] Krug, [Matt} Grzelcyk that are killing penalties. So yeah, it disrupts you. I think it gives the other team juice, especially if they score. Their best players are touching the puck a lot, so it’s tough. But we got through it.”
Bergeron posted four assists while Brad Marchand notched a goal and an assist. Marchand has 39 points in his last 22 games played. Krug added two assists to his highlight reel, game winning goal.
Thanks to the Bruins’ leaders, the game transformed from a frustrating effort where the penalty box had plagued the team to an ending meant for cinema. Zero points flipped into two in the span of minutes as the Bruins finished a comeback that will not soon be forgotten.