After getting points in every game this week, the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The last Western Conference road trip kicked off on Wednesday, and the Bruins picked up the results needed to keep strong heading into the playoffs. Pulling six out of a possible eight points, all against playoff-worthy opposition is no small feat. Even after clinching their spot on Wednesday, the Black and Gold still battled to win their next two games, against teams needing every possible point to secure a playoff berth.
Game 1: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Bruins returned home to do battle with the Blue Jackets. This was also Ryan Donato‘s NHL debut, and he did not disappoint. Donato finished with one goal and two assists in his first game since leaving Harvard and turning pro. Another injury-related absence happened to the Bruins as Rick Nash was scratched right before puck drop, and would ultimately miss the rest of the week.
Early in the matchup, the Blue Jackets would take the early lead. A Brandon Carlo turnover behind his own net resulted in a Boone Jenner deflection past Rask, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. Boston would get the majority of chances later in the period, but couldn’t find the back of the net and intermission horn sounded with the Jackets up 1-0 after 20 minutes.
The Bruins hard work in the offensive zone finally paid off in the 2nd period. After a turnover by Columbus in their offensive end, a quick Bruins counterattack lead by Ryan Donato ensued. Donato sent the puck off to a trailing Torey Krug and a quick pass back to Donato firing it past Joonas Korpisalo to tie the game at one. Minutes later, the Bruins had a two on one rush with Pastrnak and Marchand. Pasta passed the puck over to Marchand who beat Korpisalo with a filthy backhand giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead midway through the period.
Late in the frame, while on the powerplay, the Bruins added a third tally of the period. A Marchand point shot forced a rebound, which Riley Nash pounced on to give the Bruins a two-goal advantage. But, under a minute later the Jackets would cut the lead back to one. A great pass found Sonny Milano for an easy backdoor tap-in.
In the final frame, the Blue Jackets scored to tie the game at three. A great slot tip by noted Bruins killer Thomas Vanek went top corner by Rask and Columbus battled back to tie the game at three in the third period. Later in the period, the Blue Jackets scored again to take the lead. Right off a faceoff, Artemi Panarin wired one past Rask, and the Jackets had the lead late in the game. But, just 20 seconds later, the Bruins responded and tied the game at four. Ryan Donato continued his great debut, by adding his second assist of the game feeding David Krejci in tight and his shot beat Korpisalo with 8:10 remaining and both teams knotted at four.
Both teams earned a point and we headed to overtime. After being hemmed in their own zone for a little while, the Bruins didn’t pick up Cam Atkinson and his shot beat Rask, giving the Blue Jackets a 5-4 win in OT.
Game 2: St. Louis Blues
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After dropping a point to Columbus at home, the Bruins embarked on a four-game Central Divison road trip beginning in St. Louis. The first chance of the game belonged to the Black and Gold, as David Krejci entered the zone and maneuvered around the Blues defense but his shot rang the iron and the game remained scoreless. Midway through the frame, the Bruins went on the powerplay. The Blues attempted clear deflected off one of the officials, and the puck found its way over to Ryan Donato’s stick. He blasted the rolling puck past Jake Allen, giving the Bruins a 1-0 advantage. While both teams had good chances on goal, Donato’s tally would be the only goal until halfway into the third period.
A quick rush started by Alex Pietrangelo got the play going. The puck was worked over to Alex Steen who ented the zone on the left wing, dropped the puck to an incoming Jaden Schwartz whose shot beat Khudobin blocker side to tie the game at one. Overtime looked like it was certain, but with under 10 seconds to go, the Blues had one glorious opportunity to win the game in regulation. The Blues retrieved the puck after a dump in and after saving the initial shot, Anton Khudobin made an insane sprawling save, to secure one point, and officially clinch a playoff spot for the Bruins.
Early in overtime, the Blues quickly rushed out of their defensive zone, Jaden Schwartz entered the zone with speed and scored his second goal of the game, giving the Blues a 2-1 victory in OT.
Game 3: Dallas Stars
Now with the playoffs officially clinched, the Bruins traveled down to Dallas, to take on the Stars. The Stars opened the scoring as Esa Lindell ripped one from just outside the left circle past Tuukka Rask to give the Stars an early advantage. Lindell’s goal was the only marker for a while. Dallas controlled the play and tempo for the rest of the first period. The Bruins weathered the offensive flurry and in the second, had some great chances themselves, but Kari Lehtonen kept the B’s off the scoreboard. Late in the second, the Bruins were on the powerplay looking for an equalizer. But a turnover at the blueline, leading to a Jamie Benn shorthanded breakaway, and his nifty finish put the Stars two up after 40 minutes.
Down two on the road, with a playoff spot already locked up, and playing a team desperate for points, it didn’t seem likely that the Bruins could comeback. But, this team never quits, ever. Just over a minute into the third period, a David Pastrnak shot deflected off of Brad Marchand‘s knee, to cut the Stars lead to one. With 10 minutes left in the game, Dallas went on the powerplay, which looked dangerous all game. This time, it was the Bruins who capitalized down a man. An attempted clear by Boston bounced off Tyler Seguin and it spawned a two on one shorthanded rush by the Bruins. Marchand took the puck up the left wing and when the defender collapsed on Marchand, he sent the puck over to Timmy Schaller who beat Lehtonen with a slick backhand to tie the game at two. Almost identical to the St. Louis game, overtime looked like it was a certainty. The only difference was this time it was the Bruins who had a great opportunity late, and they buried it. After another Dallas icing, the Bruins maintained control of the puck and with 11.1 seconds left, David Pastrnak slid the puck past Lehtonen to cap off an insane comeback for the Bruins, winning the game 3-2.
Game 4: Minnesota Wild
On Sunday, the Bruins lineup got two huge returns. First, Torey Krug returned to the back end after missing the two previous games. Then after missing 13 games with a fractured foot, Patrice Bergeron was back centering the first line between Marchand and Pastrnak. As the playoffs are nearing, the Bruins seem to be getting closer to full health.
The first period was scoreless, but that was mainly due to Tuukka Rask. Rask made some superb saves, to keep Minnesota off the board early. Jumping to the second period, the Bruins thought they had the first goal of the game, but it was waved off due to goalie interference. Later, the B’s did get the first goal of the game. After a keep in at the blueline, Patrice Bergeron sent the puck over to David Pastrnak in the slot, he buried his one-timer past Stalock to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Rask continued his strong play into the third period, as he still kept the Wild off the board. But, midway through the period, a shot went wide and rebounded back towards the crease, where the Wild took advantage off the bounce to tie the game at one. For the third time this week, the Bruins headed to overtime, and this time they got the win. Just 28 seconds in OT, Brad Marchand beat Matt Dumba down the wing and sniped one past Stalock, for his fifth OT winner this season, giving the Bruins a 2-1 victory in OT.
The Road Ahead:
Tuesday at Winnipeg
Thursday vs Tampa Bay
Saturday vs Florida
Sunday at Philadelphia
Another tough week awaits the Bruins after their road trip concludes on Tuesday. Like the previous week, all four teams upcoming are either in the playoffs or in the hunt. This week, though key guys are getting healthy. Bergeron and Krug returned on Sunday, Chara and McAvoy began skating back in Boston and David Backes isn’t that far off from being back in the lineup. After getting points in all five previous games, the Bruins streak will continue and finish the week 3-0-1.