The injury bug isn’t as bad this time around compared to what they went through earlier this season. Yet a few members of the Boston Bruins find themselves on the injured list.
David Pastrnak is back skating as he heals from a broken thumb. But a setback for Kevan Miller (upper-body) combined with Marcus Johansson’s lung contusion and Jake DeBrusk (lower-body) being a late scratch for Thursday’s tilt with the Florida Panthers at TD Garden provided a setback on the injury front.
The shorthanded Bruins came out slow out of the gate for the second straight game. But they came back to tie things up in the third period — twice.
And unlike their come-from-behind victory against Carolina on Tuesday, they didn’t need overtime to complete the comeback. The Bruins got the job done late in regulation on Patrice Bergeron’s second goal of the night and extended their point streak to 18 straight games.
“What an exciting game,” defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “It kind of felt like it had everything.”
Here’s what we learned from the 4-3 win.
They did it again.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 8, 2019
Giving up the first two goals is never ideal. The Bruins found themselves in the same predicament twice in a 48-hour span.
The Bruins didn’t look particularly sharp in the opening moments of their tilt with Carolina following a pair of tallies from Sebastian Aho. They started slow again against a prideful Panthers squad that will be hitting the links come mid-April.
Yet they didn’t quit, again. They found a way to even things up on David Krejci’s 17th of the season at 10:29 of the second period and Bergeron’s first of two on the evening at 8:50 of the third
“We went down two again and it was like, ‘We’ve been here before,’ and we kind of said it as a joke since it’s been about 48 hours since we were in the same exact position in the second period,” McAvoy said. “It’s just this team, you know. No one ever says die.”
But the comeback effort nearly went for naught after Jonathan Huberdeau netted his second of the night just 2:05 after Bergeron’s shorthanded equalizer.
Those type of back-breaking goals can deflate a team after coming back to tie things up only to have the momentum stripped away from them. It didn’t rattle the Bruins, though.
The Panthers saw a 3-2 lead slip away when Matt Grzelcyk evened things up with his power play tally at 19:23. Bergeron’s slick wrist shot from the right faceoff circle just 30 seconds later sealed Boston’s second come-from-behind victory in as many games.
“Obviously, we’d be more comfortable playing with the lead late in games,” Grzelcyk said. “But, you know, I think obviously teams are aware of the streak we’re on, especially coming into our building. So we’ve got to do a better job of getting off to a better start and establishing a presence early. But you’re going to need to win games like that down the stretch, and it’s going to be tight all the way to the end. So, you know, it’s huge to get points there.”
The next-man-up philosophy continued.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 8, 2019
No team goes through an 82-game regular season without injuries. The Bruins are living proof of that as core players like Bergeron, McAvoy and Zdeno Chara — to name a few — missed significant time healing from their wounds during the first half of the season.
Johansson and DeBrusk were the latest to join the injury list — with Pastrnak and Miller — after sustaining their latest ailments Tuesday night. Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff had their hands full trying to find the perfect balance with his four lines. They mixed and matched different guys all night trying to find that rhythm against Roberto Luongo and company.
The Bruins needed their depth players to come through after falling behind 2-0. The depth guys came together and meshed perfectly with Boston’s core players.
“I think that’s something we talked about all year,” said Bergeron, who missed 20 games earlier this year with rib and shoulder injuries. “We’ve battled through adversity since the beginning of the year, and everyone contributes and everyone steps up… And like I said, it’s one of those things where there’s going to be some different line combinations, but we always seem to find a way and it’s the next man up.
A couple of players, in particular, stepped up in crucial moments.
David Backes, known nowadays as the team’s de facto enforcer, didn’t need to drop the gloves in this one. Instead, he parked himself in front of Luongo and set perfect screens beginning with David Krejci’s second-period tally that gave the Bruins some life.
And then there’s Grzelcyk, who notched just his second goal of the season to tie things up with Backes, again, disrupting Luongo in front.
“We really thought we’d struggle to get the goals necessary when Pasta [Pastrnak] went out. Now we got Jake [DeBrusk] and JoJo [Johansson],” Cassidy said. “So that part of it has been nice to see who’s next.”
Next man up is one next step for Cassidy and company.
Is something special brewing with this Bruins team?
Things haven’t always been perfect during this 18-game run, but the Bruins are finding different ways to win. They’ve been in every affair manageable from back-and-forth track meets to tight low scoring contests and of come from behind triumphs.
The Bruins, of course, have their eyes set on a bigger prize come season’s end. They’ve battled through tough stretches and inconsistent play through the first half of the season. Now, here they are, sitting four points ahead of the Maple Leafs for that all-important second spot in the Atlantic Division.
They’ll have their hands full in their destined first round showdown with Toronto and will need all hands on deck in a potential second round matchup with the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. But the tight-knit Bruins are building confidence in the home stretch of the 2018-19 regular season with a long-term focus on skating with the Lord Stanley’s Cup come June.
“Well, I think we’re working toward that. That’s definitely the goal,” Bergeron said. “But that being said, I think it’s about realizing that every night you need to be at your best and tonight was a great example — a good learning curve for us.”