The NHL’s hottest team needed all hands on deck against another hot team on Tuesday night at TD Garden. They had to come from behind, too.
The Carolina Hurricanes, donning Hartford Whalers uniforms, struck first with a pair of early goals and engaged physically in all three phases of the game. The Hurricanes showed that they aren’t a “bunch of jerks,” but rather legitimate playoff contenders.
It was a gut-check moment for the Boston Bruins, but one they responded to. It took overtime, after Boston’s three straight goals were answered by a third-period equalizer, but the Black and Gold still got the job done when David Krejci netted the game-winner 1:46 into the extra session.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 6, 2019
“We really battled back,” Bruce Cassidy said following the victory, which extended Boston’s point streak to 17 games. “I thought we were clearly the better team and earned the right to get back in the game and then it’s anybody’s game. It was a bit of our ‘B’ game and then a bit of our ‘A’ game in spurts, and it was enough in the end against a good team.”
Here’s what we learned from Hartford Whaler night on Causeway Street.
Showcasing their resiliency
The Bruins are finding different ways to win during their run. Tuesday showed that they can be a resilient bunch when needed.
This wasn’t an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. They couldn’t have started worse after Marcus Johansson exited the game following a massive hit by Micheal Ferland early in the first period. Sebastian Aho then struck twice to put Boston in a 2-0 hole early in the second.
Cassidy’s team went back to the basics and generated offense through transitional play exiting the defensive zone. They eventually found holes in Carolina’s defense.
The Bruins took a 3-2 lead late in the game and seemed to have things in hand until Justin Williams found the back of the net with 7:43 to play.
Once again, Boston found itself needing to find a way to prevail. They did just that on Krejci’s walk-off tally.
“In this league sometimes you win games you don’t deserve to win, sometimes you lose games you don’t deserve to lose. But at the end of the day if we want to compete each night and put our best effort forward, then hopefully we’ll win the majority of games,” Marchand said.
“I think that’s the biggest, that as a group we want to compete and hold each other accountable. But it’s the depth of our group right now that’s allowing us to win.”
Chris Wagner is quietly having himself a season
He might not be the most skilled player and he certainly isn’t the most flashy, but Chris Wagner is turning out to be a fantastic free-agent addition.
The Walpole native has fit seamlessly on Boston’s fourth line alongside Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly. Aside from giving fans ample opportunity to say his name in a Boston accent, Wagner makes all of the tough plays that never show up on the stat sheet and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.
But that isn’t the most impressive part about the 27-year-old’s season. His offensive contributions have been a pleasant surprise. He’s transformed his gritty play into goals.
“We saw that last year with our fourth line. We’re going to give them minutes, and they’re going to play if they can accept the assignment,” Cassidy said. “It’s a lot of grunt work, a lot of faceoffs in your own end, get the puck down to the other end, get yanked off so the more offensive guys come out.”
Wagner displayed that grunt work in the second period with his career-high 10th goal of the season to give the Bruins some life. The Bruins fed off that line’s energy and swung the momentum in their direction.
Another shot from Carlo leads to offense, with Walpole's own Chris Wagner burying the rebound.
2-1 game. pic.twitter.com/KHSSsajQNG
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 6, 2019
“No. I mean the team is unbelievable. Obviously, I’m from here; so, the city through and through,” Wagner said about his season to date. “But, yeah it’s pretty cool. Ten goals. I don’t know if I could’ve ever dreampt of that when I was 16 playing at Xaverian, but yeah, it’s pretty crazy.”
Whaler night was a hit
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) March 6, 2019
The top-notch effort from both sides provided an exciting back-and-forth affair. It was only fitting that the look matched the on-ice talent.
The Hurricanes honored their Hartford roots with a slick looking vintage Whaler uniform. The retro look added to the playoff-like atmosphere that was reminiscent of the old Bruins-Whalers showdowns in the Adams Division. Chants of “Let’s go Whalers!” and “Save the Whale!” rang out from the TD Garden faithful and it made the contest that much better.
The Hurricanes honored their heritage twice this season against the Bruins. The overwhelming applause for the vintage threads almost makes you wonder if a team in Hartford would thrive nowadays?
At the very least, adopting the Whalers look into an alternate jersey would provide a good look for the franchise going forward.