The Bruins were searching at the end of the first period. Down by two goals, Boston was just trying to get to intermission and regroup.
But the final shift of the opening frame seemed like it would never end. Columbus was bullying the Bruins as the Blue Jackets landed five heavy hits in the last 30 seconds of the period. Boston finally escaped, having put just four shots on goal, and retreated to the dressing room where head coach Bruce Cassidy delivered a stern message to his club: their start was unacceptable.
“We deserved it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Sometimes you need that ugly truth, I guess. Every second of the first period we didn’t like. We didn’t compete, we didn’t play well.”
Knowing that the team needed a spark, Zdeno Chara wasted little time showing Cassidy – and his teammates – that the message was received. The captain dropped the gloves with Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson just 40 seconds into the middle period and set the tone for the remainder of the night.
Boston went on to allow another goal midway through the second and fell into a three-goal hole, but the momentum had clearly shifted. The Bruins erased the deficit and were able to grab a point in what eventually turned into a 4-3 shootout loss – courtesy of Oliver Bjorkstrom’s winner in the third round – on Monday night at Nationwide Arena.
“It’s a huge boost,” Torey Krug said of Chara’s scrap. “He’s a guy that plays a lot of minutes for us and has a lot of other things to worry about than dropping the gloves…he stepped up and he did just that. Guys started playing. I know they got one…but I think our guys responded regardless.”
The Bruins were pleased with their ability to overcome the deficit and steal away a point, but felt two points was easily within their grasp had they come out with a better start.
“You just can’t have those starts,” said Cassidy. “We need better. We put ourselves in a bad spot and we fought our way out of it, so that’s the positive. I don’t like to see us start like that. I take a lot of pride in being ready to go and I thought we weren’t as a group.
“But we corrected it, gave ourselves a chance to get two points, just didn’t work out in the shootout.”
Boston began to chip away at the 3-0 hole when Patrice Bergeron delivered with a power-play tally late in the second. After drilling the post with a slapper, Torey Krug collected the rebound and found David Pastrnak behind the net. Pastrnak (three assists) sent it to Danton Heinen, who delivered a feed to Bergeron at the top of the right circle. Bergeron finished it off by slamming a one-timer by Sergei Bobrovsky with 4:23 remaining in the period to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Bruins got within a goal at the 10:26 marker of the third on Torey Krug’s second goal of the season. Kevan Miller trickled down into the corner and zipped a pass through the slot to Krug, who was charging to the post. Krug then ripped one by the glove of Bobrovsky to make it 3-2.
Boston tied the game just 1:21 later with its second power-play marker of the night. Krug collected the puck behind the Bruins net and dropped the puck off to Pastrnak, who soared through the neutral zone and left a pass for Bergeron just inside the Columbus blue line.
Bergeron found a wide-open Marchand in the slot, where the winger fired a wrister glove-side for his 200th career goal. It was a strong display of puck movement from the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio, which had been reunited earlier in the night.
“We know how to play with each other, we have chemistry, it’s always been there,” said Bergeron. “Right away, I could see it was still there form the first shift on. We created some good things on the power play, too, and carried that over to 5-on-5 play.
“I go back to what we didn’t do in the first, same thing for our line. We competed harder and got pucks back and good things happen when you do that.”
The Bruins, however, did not have much luck in the shootout. Kenny Agostino and Marchand were blanked in the first two rounds, but goals from Artemi Panarin and Bjorkstrand secured the victory for Columbus.
“We have a lot of character in our dressing room, so you realize that it wasn’t the way we want to play and you get [angry] at yourself and start playing better,” said Tuukka Rask, who made 29 saves. “We found a way to battle back and get a point. It’s a big point.”
Miller Steps Up
The Bruins also received quite the boost from Miller late in the third period. Following a heavy hit on Krug by Bjorkstrand in the corner, Miller took exception and dropped the gloves with just over five minutes to go in regulation.
Bjorkstrand was handed a five-minute major for boarding, while Miller received a two-minute instigator, a five-minute major for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct. But Miller’s teammates were hardly disappointed.
“We need that, we need to show that we’re a team, that we’re a family in here,” said Marchand. “That carries onto the ice. Guys did a great job of standing up for each other.”
“It’s part of Kevan Miller what he does,” added Cassidy. “He’s got to stick up for his teammates. It’s difficult to get upset with him even though we could have been on a five-minute power play. Over the course of the season, that’s what brings teams together.”