Jarome Iginla scored the only goal in Thursday’s shootout to give the Bruins a 3-2 win over Anaheim at TD Garden.
Zdeno Chara netted the game-tying goal with a power-play strike at 17:10 of the third period.
Neither of those goals would have been scored had Torey Krug not made the correct split-second decision.
At 17:02 of the third period, David Krejci squared off against Nick Bonino for an offensive-zone faceoff at the right circle. The Bruins trailed, 2-1. They were in danger of losing their third straight game.
Krejci won the draw on his backhand. But Milan Lucic, positioned to Krejci’s right, couldn’t corral the puck. The puck slid out of Lucic’s reach and almost left the offensive zone. Bonino, Ryan Getzlaf, and Francois Beauchemin pursued the puck in hopes of creating an odd-man rush the other way.
Krug read it perfectly.
“I knew they had three guys up top and I knew they had one down there,” Krug said. “I knew we had Z and someone else. So I knew we had a good chance if I just threw it to the net.”
As the puck approached the blue line, Krug stopped it from leaving the zone. With one motion, Krug snapped the puck on goal. Jonas Hiller booted out Krug’s shot, but he couldn’t settle the rebound. Because Bonino, Getzlaf, and Beauchemin tried to rush the puck, Cam Fowler was left alone trying to cover two men. Fowler failed.
Krejci scooped up Krug’s rebound. Krejci dished through Fowler to Chara in front. Chara buried the puck at 17:10, tying the game at 2-2.
“Every once in a while, he’ll make mistakes,” said coach Claude Julien of his rookie defenseman. “But when he makes plays like he did to keep the puck in and help us tie the game, those are the kinds of things you like to see. You can get guys that are great defensively and won’t give you much offensively. At the end of the night, you don’t really win hockey games like that. When you’re trying to create something offensively, there’s always a bit of a risk. This young guy made a good decision there at the end.”
The game-tying power-play goal showcased the Bruins’ primary wrinkle: Chara in front. The captain has two goals this season. Both on the power play. Both from in front.
But the primary reason why the Bruins shifted Chara from the point to net-front duty was the emergence of Krug. The Bruins never had a pace-pusher from the back end who could quarterback the power play with Krug’s touch, vision, and accuracy.
At even strength, Krug is a third-pairing defenseman who can sometimes be overwhelmed by stronger, faster, and bigger forwards. But on the power play, Krug might be the team’s most important piece.
Of Krug’s 7 points, 5 are on the power play (three goals, two assists). Krug is averaging 2:39 of man-up time per game. On Thursday, Krug helped the Bruins score an important goal.
The Bruins were in a tough spot. They had battled through a playoff-like 3-2 road loss to Pittsburgh Wednesday. Anaheim was off the night before and resting in Boston. The Ducks entered the game just 2 points back of San Jose, the Western Conference’s top dog.
The Bruins didn’t start well. They had only one shot in the first period. They rarely had the puck. When they did, they made bad decisions with it, like the one Carl Soderberg made that led to Anaheim’s first goal.
From the left-side wall in the defensive zone, Soderberg tried to go up the middle with a clearing pass. Dustin Penner stepped in front of the pass. Moments later, Devante Smith-Pelly gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 1:52 of the first.
Soderberg redeemed himself with his first career goal at 12:45 of the second. But in the final minute of the period, the Bruins gave up a gut punch of a goal.
Gregory Campbell lost a defensive-zone faceoff to Mathieu Perreault, who pulled the puck back to Fowler. The defenseman sent the puck back to Perreault. Before Tuukka Rask (21 saves) knew what had happened, Perreault had whipped the puck through the goalie to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead with 20.9 seconds left in the period.
“That goal in the last 20 seconds of the second probably would have broken a lot of teams’ backs,” Julien said. “It didn’t break ours. We came back out in the third and fought.”
Julien went for the win in the third. He rolled three lines instead of four (Shawn Thornton played just 7:09). The Bruins leaned hard on Chara (29:45). The captain responded by landing six shots, including the tying goal, and keeping top-liners Getzlaf (three shots) and Corey Perry (one shot) off the scoresheet.
In the shootout, after Ryan Spooner missed, Iginla canned a riser over Hiller’s glove. Soderberg missed as the third shooter. But Rask denied Bonino, Perry, and Getzlaf.
“It wasn’t a complete 60-minute effort,” Krug said. “But we realize that if we’re down a goal, we have the confidence to put certain guys out on the ice, and we have the confidence to make a comeback.”