For the second time in some 48 hours, the Bruins on Monday night fell into an early 3-0 deficit to the Capitals, and appeared destined for another loss at Capital One Arena, their hurt locker in recent years.
But they woke up with a bang, triggered in part by Trent Frederic putting some hurt on Tom Wilson in a big man’s bout, and ripped off five consecutive goals, including four in the third period, for a 5-3 win that handed the Caps their first loss in regulation this season.
David Pastrnak potted his first pair of goals. Defenseman Brandon Carlo hammered home the 3-3 tiebreaker with 2:37 remaining. Craig Smith and Brad Marchand (empty-netter) knocked home the other goals as the Bruins improved to 6-1-2.
“I think Freddy had a lot to do with it, that scrap with Wilson,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “Kind of got everyone’s attention on the bench. [Wilson] is arguably the toughest guy in the National Hockey League — [Zdeno Chara] would be in that mix too, obviously — and Freddy stood in there and gave us a bit of a boost.”
The fight game, a dying factor in today’s NHL, for decades was a beloved feature. Often its impact was overstated in regard to changing the tone of a game. But Frederic’s punch-up with the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Wilson undeniably juiced up the Boston bench at a time when the Bruins were trailing, 3-2, and still chipping back from the three-goal deficit.
Frederic, ex- of the University of Wisconsin, was able to get a handle on the bout by being the first to attach a fist (left) to Wilson’s collar. From there, the bout was on, and though it was fairly brief, each of the big boys connected with stiff righthanded pops.
While the two heavyweights each served their five-minute majors, the Bruins scored the equalizer (Smith at 13:07), went ahead (Carlo at 17:23), and then salted it away when Marchand slid home the empty-netter with 1:26 left.
“I didn’t get back to the bench until it was 4-3,” noted Frederic, who hadn’t fought since his NHL debut two years earlier. “But in the box, I was like a little kid in there, jumping around … felt good to watch that. Had a real good angle on [Carlo’s] slap shot to the top shelf — so it was good to watch that.”
Among the more encouraging points of the night also for the Bruins was the overall contribution the backline made to the offense. Including Carlo’s game-winning snipe from the right dot off Sean Kuraly’s dish, the defensemen contributed a line of 1-4—5, equal to more than half of the 4-5—9 line assembled by the forwards.
With the losses of Chara and Torey Krug to free agency, the Bruins went into the season knowing they’d need some pop back there from unsuspecting sources. It appears the backliners are feeling more confident about contributing to the attack.
“You need that in today’s NHL,” said Cassidy. “If you’re in a game where you need three or four to win, then they have to be part of it. So very encouraging. We know it’s in Charlie [McAvoy]. Carlo had six his rookie year, so were know there’s a little more there. And [Jeremy] Lauzon and [Jakub] Zboril have the ability to pitch in. We want to make sure we are getting that out of them.”
Like Saturday night, the Bruins came out smoking, and launched 13 shot attempts in the opening six minutes before the Caps even squeezed off one. But then the ice tilted. The Caps had 25 shot attempts before the first period ended (amid a 25-3 surge) and staked a 2-0 lead when Chara and Daniel Sprong struck only 11 seconds apart.
It got worse before it got better. John Carlson bumped it to 3-0 only 8:35 into the second, Jaroslav Halak beaten on three of 18 shots to that point. From there, however, the Caps grew dormant, landing only eight more shots the rest of the night across some 31 minutes.
Pastrnak, who had offseason hip surgery, made his season debut Saturday.
“The next morning,” he said, “I felt like I got hit by a train.”
Nonetheless, he was on his scoring game again after tallying 48 times last season. His first of the year, off a feed from Marchand (1-1—2), cut the Caps’ lead to 3-1 at 12:37 of the second. Pastrnak cut it to 3-2 when he carried a Zboril feed to the left wing circle and snapped home a wrister at 6:08 of the third. Less than three minutes later, Frederic had the dustup with Wilson, and then the walls came a tumblin’ down.
“That was huge tonight — he did a fanstastic job,” said Carlo, praising Frederic’s fisticuffs. “To go up against that guy, it’s not an easy task. Freddy’s just fearless in that regard. He really got that whole thing jump started with that comeback.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.