The undermanned Bruins scrapped for 60-plus minutes against the immensely talented yet mysteriously struggling Pittsburgh Penguins at the Garden last night, and this time they had more than a measly point to show for it.
Jaroslav Halak made 36 often brilliant saves and Joakim Nordstrom tipped home a Torey Krug pass at 1:57 of overtime to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Pens. The B’s had lost two of their previous three games in OT.
“That was huge,” said Nordstrom, who already has doubled his goal output last year in Carolina with his fourth last night. “We’ve fought hard in OTs in a few games before and we weren’t able to get the extra point. We had some discussions about it before this game and we’re all happy it ended this way.”
The B’s and Halak shut out the Penguins at 5-on-5 and the goalie was beaten only by a perfect Evgeni Malkin power play shot in the second period.
With Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Urho Vaakanainen on the shelf, goals have not been coming easily for the B’s. Last night they bumped up rookie Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to center the first line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, which also went head-to-head against Sidney Crosby.
Some of the matchup was ugly — JFK won just 5-of-20 faceoffs — but the group was able to keep the Crosby unit off the board at even strength, not an easy task.
“He battled,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of JFK. “Listen, he’s seven games in. Two games ago I was concerned he could handle a third-line role. I just saw some growth in Detroit so I said ‘Well, let’s see if he can take another step against Crosby.’ He’s got two good wingers with him offensively, but if he could take care of the defense thing … listen, they had some chances. I know our goaltending had to come through. It usually does. But to keep them at no 5-on-5 goals, you’ve got to give credit to everybody on the ice against a good offensive and he was a part of that.”
Early in the second period David Krejci, who was otherwise excellent all night, was called for an offensive zone tripping penalty and put the Pens’ all-star power play to work.
The Pens came in ranked eighth overall on the PP, but first on the road — and they showed why. Crosby, Evegeni Malkin Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist zipped the puck around for over a minute before Malkin buried a one-timer from the right circle at 6:09 to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 advantage.
But the B’s kept grinding and got the equalizer at 13:40. With the play starting to open up a bit and the teams trading chances, Krejci and Jake DeBrusk played a little give-and-go. DeBrusk carried the puck over the blue line on the right side and dished it to Krejci, who backed his way toward the hash marks before pushing it back for DeBrusk at the top of the circle. DeBrusk had never stopped skating and he stepped into a one-timer, blasting it past Tristan Jarry’s glove for his ninth of the season.
“It was prime-time Krech out there tonight,” DeBrusk said. “I didn’t see it go in. I think it was the first-ever one-timer goal I’ve ever scored. I was as surprised as everyone tonight.”
At 17:25, the brutally snakebitten David Backes thought he’d given the B’s the lead with his first goal of the year when he jammed a puck between Jarry and the shortside post. It was immediately waved off by referee Wes McCauley, though Backes seemed pretty sure it was in and took his fist bumps along the B’s bench.
But if the puck was completely over the line, video evidence of it eluded the replay officials. After a lengthy review, the washout on the ice was upheld and it remained a 1-1 game.
“It’s coming. I feel it’s coming,” the tough-luck Backes said.
The B’s seemed to sag after the call went against them and the Pens pounced with several excellent chances in the last two minutes. The best one came with just seconds left and Jake Guentzel all alone with the puck in the slot, but Halak somehow thwarted him.
“He just hit my glove,” said Halak. “If he goes for one of the corners, I wouldn’t have been able to get it. I just tried to get a push on him, put my glove, and thankfully for us, it ended up in my glove.”