The nicked-up Bruins didn’t show up in the opening 20 minutes.
A slow-moving four-minute power play to begin the first period — after Charlie McAvoy drew blood on a Clayton Keller high-stick — combined with two tallies from Nick Schmaltz and Nick Cousins 40 seconds apart gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead. Then David Backes took an Oliver Ekman-Larsson skate to the face toward the end of the first in one of the scarier moments of the season.
Backes returned in time for the second period. So did the Bruins.
A four-goal onslaught sparked by a new set of lines and clutch saves from Tuukka Rask in his second consecutive start propelled the Black and Gold to a come-from-behind win over the Desert Dogs.
“I mean we knew that we’re okay,” Rask said following his 30-save effort. “The first period wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t that bad. A couple tough bounces there, a few goals, so we just realized we…we’re not getting the chances, we have to stay tight and patient and results will come and they came.”
Here is what we learned following Boston’s 4-3 victory Tuesday night at TD Garden.
New-look third line sets the tone
Throw three kids on a line and see what happens. What else does Bruce Cassidy have to lose with that philosophy?
The third-year Bruins coach hasn’t had the luxury of four consistent lines this season sans the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron (when healthy) and David Pastrnak trio. His third and fourth lines, in particular, have seen a mesh of players in and out of the lineup.
Well, Cassidy has the luxury now of trotting out Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Danton Heinen over the past few games. This new-look third line provided a shot in the arm Tuesday night when Forsbacka Karlsson fed Heinen on an odd-man rush — off a Donato outlet pass — at 8:40 of the second period to pull the Bruins within one.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 12, 2018
The stat sheet read Heinen from Forsbacka Karlsson and Donato, but the former Denver standout had another assist from an unlikely source — assistant equipment manager Matt Falconer — after breaking his stick down the other end.
“I think [the line chemistry] is better than it’s been. It was a great play by JFK [Forsbacka Karlsson] on the back door there, and I think it was an even better play by Matty Falconer handing over my stick from the bench,” Heinen said with a laugh.
New-look first line carries the load
“Bergeron, we need you,” a Bruins fan yelled in the balcony during the second period.
Replacing Patrice Bergeron is nearly impossible. Forsbacka Karlsson and fellow youngster Colby Cave found out the hard way when skating with the formidable Pastrnak and Marchand duo. Both rookies found it difficult going up against the other team’s top playmakers, and that developed a negative trickle-down effect for the second, third and fourth lines.
So, what did Cassidy do prior to Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs? Bump David Krejci with Pastrnak and Marchand, thus creating another top-heavy lineup.
“Let’s face it. We need those guys to be our best players every night and offensively they’ve come through for us as of late,” Cassidy said about the Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak trio.
6️⃣3️⃣ – 4️⃣6️⃣ – 8️⃣8️⃣ was ???.
Watch all three of their goals right here ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/fSb2et8u9m
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 12, 2018
Well, the move is paying off over the past three games, and on Tuesday, the new-look top line took control following Heinen’s fourth goal of the season. Pastrnak and Marchand dazzled with impressive highlight-reel goals and passes while Krejci assisted on each of three tallies — two from Marchand and one from Pastrnak — in a 4:17 span to give the Bruins a 4-2 lead.
“Those are two world-class players,” Krejci said about centering Marchand and Pastrnak. “So I’m just happy to be on that line and happy to help the team win games.”
Backes’ toughness on display
David Backes hasn’t had the best of luck escaping the injury bug since signing with the Bruins on July 1, 2016. The former St. Louis captain missed several games this year following another concussion and sat on the sidelines at the start of the 2016-17 campaign while recovering from diverticulitis. He also took a skate blade to the leg during a tilt with the Lightning last year that resulted in 18 stitches, and a high-stick from Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin a few weeks ago.
The scene isn’t for the faint of heart. Yet Backes toughed it out and returned for the opening faceoff of the second period.
Another look at David Backes' injury.
Guy can't catch a break. pic.twitter.com/VbfmUxUgnA
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 12, 2018
“Yeah, I didn’t know what happened at first, but the way he came off you figured it was worse
than a high stick,” Cassidy said. “Sure enough. Those are tough, up around your eyes too, but he was able to play through it. I’m sure he’ll be sore tomorrow.”
The win came with a few stitches, but Backes and the Bruins will gladly take the two points.