ST. LOUIS — Zdeno Chara was off in Sochi, Russia. The Bruins were here in St. Louis. That left a very young, very inexperienced defense corps to take on the Blues, a team that was second in the NHL in scoring, averaging 3.33 goals per game. It didn’t seem like a recipe for 2 points for Boston.
And yet, the Bruins were able to come an Alex Pietrangelo stick blade away from an overtime win.
They had come back from two goals down in the third period, bringing a game that seemed to be a sure loss into an extra session. But after Pietrangelo, a defenseman, saved a seemingly easy goal by Jarome Iginla, it was the Blues who took the win, 3-2, at the Scottrade Center on Thursday night.
That win came on a score that Tuukka Rask labeled a “[expletive] goal,” with T.J. Oshie jamming the puck past the Boston goaltender after a Carl Soderberg turnover behind the net.
“It looked like I missed my blocker like half a second there, just enough that it squeezed through,” Rask said. “I think we deserved better than that. We battled hard. I thought we played a solid game. As I said, we probably deserved more. But a point on the road against a good team is always good. Have to be satisfied with that, but we had a chance to get more.”
It was an unfortunate ending — Brad Marchand called it “disappointing” — and yet it left the Bruins with a point, and gave them 16 of a possible 20 in their last 10 games as they steam toward the Olympic break. With the OT loss, the Bruins are 7-1-2 in their last 10.
“I’m proud of the way we played, the whole team from the first line to the fourth line, all of our Ds were really good,” coach Claude Julien said. “Even though we were down, 2-0, after two periods, I still thought our team was playing extremely well and probably deserved better.”
That goes especially for that defense corps, with Johnny Boychuk by far its most experienced member with Chara in Russia to be the flag bearer for Slovakia at the Olympics. The Bruins didn’t allow that much offensive zone time to the Blues, who were outshot, 38-27.
It was, as Marchand called it, “a big test for them. They came really hard at us. They’ve got a lot of big guys who battle, and they’re physical down low. They handled themselves great.”
“That’s the thing that was really impressive for me tonight is that with the young D corps back there I didn’t think we spent a ton of time in our own end,” Julien said. “Our guys did a great job getting pucks out and our forwards were back helping out. That made a big difference in tonight’s game. If we hadn’t have done that, it would have been a lot different.”
Instead, the Bruins still had a chance in the third period, though they hadn’t been able to convert on numerous chances in the first two. The Bruins scored a pair of goals in just 2:08 of the third, giving themselves new life.
They got their first at 9:16, as David Krejci sent a puck past the screening Milan Lucic and into the net after a drop pass from Iginla. Krejci’s 13th of the season cut the Blues’ lead in half.
Then, after a point shot by Boychuk rebounded to him, Marchand tied the game on a tough-angle shot from just above the goal line, roofing it over Jaroslav Halak at 11:24. Marchand said he knew Halak would be out of position, and just tried to get the puck on him as quickly as possible.
It was the scenario the Bruins had anticipated — or at least that they had hoped would happen.
“We talked about it between the periods, that all we needed was one goal to get us going.” Julien said. “We knew our chances were there, and it was just a matter of getting one in and then hopefully the rest would come.”
The Blues opened the scoring at 15:48 of the first period, just after a Bruins’ power play — on a play that left Julien upset. Loui Eriksson had taken a high stick to the mouth from Maxim Lapierre just as the Blues began to head up ice. It went unpenalized, despite the blood leaking from Eriksson’s mouth.
Alexander Steen then scored on a slap shot from the top of the right circle. “If I blame myself on any of those goals,” said Rask, “that’s the one I should have had.”
The Blues increased their lead at 3:32 of the second when Jaden Schwartz launched a shot between Kevan Miller’s legs that beat Rask glove side.
And that was the way it stood until halfway through the third period, when the Bruins turned it around, something made possible by the play of their young defense.
“It’s great to see our team compete the way we did tonight with all the guys missing on the back end,” Julien said. “We talked about that — our guys back there did a great job.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.