BOSTON, MA – Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand missed the last two games while being on the NHL’s COVID Protocol list. The Bruins struggled in those two games. They eked out a 3-2 win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and lost 1-0 to the slightly not as low New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Tonight, in the return game against the Devils, Marchand made his presence felt as the Bruins pulled out a come from behind, overtime shoot-out win 5-4.
Marchand had a goal and an assist in the win, but more importantly, he had his teammates’ backs. Marchand’s play, especially a fiery stretch in the second period, continues to be a catalyst in the third period. Multiple times he single-handedly got the 2,191 fans in attendance at TD Garden to will the Bruins back into the game.
New Jersey drew first blood Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon had a pass go to Devils defenseman PK Subban at the Devils blue line. Subban dished to Miles Wood in the slot, and the 6′-2″ winger beat Jaroslav Halak (31 saves) on the Devils’ first shot of the game at 1:28. The goal was Wood’s third against Boston in six games and his 11th overall.
Boston answered the bell at 5:55 when Nick Ritchie‘s wrist shot from the top of the right circle bounced off Devils goalie MacKenzie Blackwood‘s glove and into the Devils’ net. David Krejci and Craig Smith assisted on Ritchie’s 10th goal of the season. The goal was the Bruins’ first five-on-five goal against the Devils in six games this season.
The visiting Devils pulled ahead again at 9:34 when Michael McLeod gathered a loose puck at the red line and raced past Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk to beat Halak at the far post. Jesper Boqvist and Ryan Murray were credited with assists on McLeod’s fifth goal of the year.
Boston appeared to tie the game just 1:01 into the second period when Krejci tipped a Grzelcyk shot past Blackwood, but the official waved it off for Goaltender Interference on Krejci.
Travis Zajac made it 3-1 when he outmuscled Boston’s Connor Clifton in front of Halak to tip in a Jesper Bratt shot from the blue line at 3:45.
This was when Marchand tried to stir the Bruins to life. Over the course of the next six and a half minutes, Marchand’s play would fire up the crowd as well as himself. The 5′-9″ left-wing had a tussle with New Jersey defenseman Ty Smith after Blackwood tied up the puck. Marchand was called for Roughing at 9:20 and whipped Smith’s helmet from the scrum out to the Devils’ blue line.
After Boston killed off the penalty, Marchand laid out defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and then took on Bratt in a tussle that landed both in the box for Roughing at 12:59.
When play resumed, New Jersey’s Subban was sent off for Slashing at 14:07, giving the Bruins a man advantage for the first time. Marchand, who capitalized at 15:48 when he snapped a Bergeron feed past Blackwood from the slot cutting the Devils, led to one, 3-2. Marchand’s Power Play goal was his 13th goal of the year.
However, Lauzon’s sloppy play led to a Kyle Palmieri unassisted goal at 17:06, making it 4-2 Devils. The 23-year-old defenseman tried to spring David Pastrnk from the Bruins zone off of a Bergeron face-off win, but Palmieri, who has tormented Boston all season, read the play, picked off the pass, and beat Halak for his eighth goal of the year. Five have come against the Bruins in six games. Lauzon has been out for four weeks with a broken hand before returning to the line-up on Saturday vs. the Sabres.
Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy pulled the Bruins to within one when he one-timed a Smith rebound past Blackwood (44 saves) at 10:22 of the third period. Smith and Krejci assisted on McAvoy’s fourth of the season.
The Bruins were firing on all cylinders, but Blackwood has had their number all year. The 6′-4″ 24-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was 3-0-0-1 coming into the game with a 1.20 Goals Against Average versus Boston. He had turned away 132 of 135 Bruins shots coming into this game.
Grzelcyk tied the game for Boston at 16:00 when he beat Blackwood far-side with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle off of a Krejci face-off win. Smith and Krejci assisted on Grzelcyk’s third goal of the year. The two forwards finished the game with three assists each.
Overall the Krejci, Smith, and Ritchie line was a force all night.
“They (Boston) really pushed in the third,” said Zajac after the game. “We were honestly kind of lucky to get to overtime, but we stuck with it. We battled. We just couldn’t find a way to close it out tonight.”
After sixty minutes of play and the score tied at 4-4, Boston was out-shooting the Devils 44-32.
In overtime, they held a slight 4-3 shots on goal advantage. McAvoy had a rebound attempt whacked away by Bratt at one end of the rink, while back at the other end, Halak made a leg save on Damon Severson’s slight breakaway bid. McAvoy was called for Slashing on the play. New Jersey didn’t muster much on the four-on-three power play.
In the shoot-out, Halak stopped Pavel Zacha while Charlie Coyle beat Blackwood. Then Halak stopped Palmieri. Pastrnak beat Blackwood at the post to give Boston the much-needed extra point from the shoot-out win. Boston remains in fourth place in the MassMutual East division on 41 points with the win and the point. The Devils, meanwhile, stay in seventh on 31 points. Boston trails Pittsburgh by seven points, and the Bruins host the Penguins for two games on Thursday and Saturday. The Devils travel to Washington to take on the first-place Capitals on Friday and Sunday.
“I thought our puck play, which was pretty good through two periods, kind of let us down in the third,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “We didn’t execute sometimes leaving the zone. Spend some extra time; we had some plays leaving the zone that if we make better plays, we’re going up ice creating opportunities.”
“We were able to outscore our mistakes tonight,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy when asked about the contrast of defensemen play at both ends.
“Obviously the on-ice play, he made some nice plays, got on the scoresheet, scored a nice goal on the power play,” said Cassidy of Marchand’s impact tonight. “Did his job, and in that instance (hit on Kulikov), he just finished a check and annoyed somebody. And it gets the attention of the other team. It gets the attention of our bench. Gets the energy level up.”
“It was loud in here tonight,” added Cassidy. “When you have no fans for the longest time, as even a small amount gives you some juice. So I think it helped in that regard. So, all-around good, good for Brad, he recognized it.”
“I think that’s the staple of our team,” said Marchand. “You saw in the third period when we compete and we’re hard on pucks, we’re hard, direct, and we play together. We’re a tough team to play. We completely took over that game. And we can do that for a full sixty (minutes). It’s got to start somewhere, and it started tonight. We have to keep that rolling.”