It seemed like a quick hook. After playing in the last four Bruins playoff games — the final three against the Red Wings and Game 1 against the Canadiens — Matt Bartkowski found himself in the press box for Saturday’s Game 2.
He had committed two penalties in Game 1, both on Dale Weise and both of which led to goals, including the game-winner in double overtime by P.K. Subban.
As Bartkowski admitted Friday, “The penalties aside, I just don’t think I played a very good game. I have to be better.”
He added, “It’s just a short memory. Take what you can from it, learn from it, and fix the mistakes. I’m not getting down. It’s just one game. I can play better, we can all play better.”
Bartkowski already had missed the first two games of the Red Wings series because of an illness, but it had seemed that coach Claude Julien preferred him in the lineup on the second pairing alongside Johnny Boychuk. Still, Bartkowski didn’t get a chance to fix his mistakes Saturday, with Julien opting instead to play Andrej Meszaros in his spot.
Asked about the decision, Julien said, “It’s what we decided to do. It’s as simple as that. I think we felt we needed a change and we made that.”
For Meszaros, the time out of the lineup hadn’t been terribly long — just four games — and he said that he had been preparing in case someone was injured, in case the team needed him.
Saturday, the Bruins needed him, in what ended up a 5-3 series-tying win.
“It’s tough when you’re not playing,” Meszaros said. “Obviously you want to be in the lineup every time, but it’s coach’s decision, you have to respect that. We have to just be focused, stay ready physically and mentally, and when you get the opportunity just go out there and play.”
Meszaros recorded the secondary assist on the Bruins’ first goal in Game 2, bringing the puck into the zone and sending a shot on Carey Price that missed wide, and went off the end boards to Carl Soderberg. The center fed Daniel Paille for the goal. Meszaros played 16:35 in the game, including 2:59 shorthanded.
But Meszaros also committed a crucial roughing penalty on Tomas Plekanec at 16:23 of the second period with Torey Krug already in the box for roughing along with Lars Eller. That gave the Canadiens 1:46 of a four-on-three advantage, and Montreal cashed in with a tiebreaking goal by Thomas Vanek.
Of the penalty, Meszaros said, “I was pushing him and [the referee] called me. I wish I could take it back, obviously they scored on it, but it’s the referee’s call, nothing we can do about it right now. I thought we could have [both] been called, but we didn’t. Next game I’m just going to take the punch or whatever and just walk away, I guess.”
Of course, that’s something the rest of the Bruins need to do, as well.
As for his play overall, Meszaros said he wasn’t sure what Julien was looking for in particular by putting him into the lineup. Meszaros said his plan was to do just what every other defenseman does, or tries to do: “Defend well in your own zone, try to support the forwards, try to shoot the puck, get it down there, and maybe create some chances. But overall you have to be solid defensively and not get beat in front of the net or off the walls.”
He added, “Obviously being out of the lineup it’s tough for anybody, not just for me. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to go out there and play. It was a fun game.”
It was, he said, a game unlike just about all the others in his career, and one he was happy to be on the ice for.
“I don’t think I’ve been a part of this kind of comeback ever in my career,” Meszaros said. “So it was something incredible, so much fun, and you could feel it. Everybody was confident and nobody quit and everybody believed we can do it. Obviously I haven’t been here enough, but I heard the guys’ comebacks in third periods were incredible all year, so they knew and you could feel it that we can do it.”