Matt Grzelcyk waited until it seemed like the Bruins would fall victim to more third-period heartbreak at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers to deliver his first goal of the season.
With the score knotted at 2 and the Bruins seemingly headed for their second overtime battle in as many nights, Grzelcyk cashed in on assists from Craig Smith and John Moore to seal a 3-2 win for the Bruins on Thursday night at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
“We knew we had a back-to-back coming into a tough building, playing one of the best teams in the league,” said Grzelcyk. “We have a lot of character on this team, a lot of belief, ability. We sort of addressed it before the game that we wanted to play with a little more urgency, play with some more passion. I think it was kind of missing from our game last night. But everyone bought in and did a great job.”
“We just started playing our game in the third,” added acting Bruins coach Joe Sacco. “It took us a couple periods to get going, but our group knew we didn’t play our best hockey after two periods and we just went out and played hockey.
“It was as good response especially after they got their second goal.”
With the Oilers trailing, 2-1, in the third period, Leon Draisaitl, who scored two goals to lift the Oilers to a 5-3 win over the Bruins in November in Boston, gave Edmonton a patient power-play goal that evened the score at 9:50.
It was his second goal of the game and 23rd of the season.
With the Oilers taking aim at Linus Ullmark (41 saves), the Bruins scrambled to put pucks on net late in the game. They got 15 shots on goal in the third period and finally broke through thanks to Grzelcyk.
“It’s never ideal. You never want to be in a situation like that,” said Bruins forward Charlie Coyle. “But still a tie game at that point. It’s hockey, it’s two points up for grabs, so everyone kind of comes together and you kind of relax a little bit and say, ‘OK, let’s focus on the next shift here.’ Guys say it all the time and it kind of keeps our focus and head straight. This game’s still up for grabs. We’ve got to play the right way, and we did that and it paid off.”
The Bruins had little time to lick their wounds after Wednesday night’s shootout loss to the Canucks. They were able to pick up a point but still sat three behind the Penguins in the wild-card standings.
The record was nowhere near a representation of the team the Bruins believe they are, but they had issues to work through.
The Oilers, they knew, were a team that would test them.
A three-game slide had Edmonton reeling, but the Oilers were still fourth in the Western Conference.
The Bruins couldn’t capitalize on two earlier power plays, but their penalty kill — which entered seventh in the league — picked up the slack.
The Oilers got two power plays in the first period off a hooking call on Trent Frederic at 8:26 and a roughing call on Nick Foligno at 16:03, but came up empty on both.
But after Patrice Bergeron stole the puck from Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie, he found Brad Marchand breaking away and sent a saucer pass up ice. Marchand finished it off with by beating goalie Stuart Skinner (27 saves) with a backhander for his 10th goal of the season and the 32nd shorthanded goal of his career.
The Bruins padded the lead in the second period. Taylor Hall, who was replaced by Erik Haula on the second line Wednesday, came up with the assist on Jake DeBrusk’s fifth goal of the season, a power-play strike that pushed the Bruins’ lead to 2-0.
The Bruins, however, went into the third period ahead just, 2-1, after Draisaitl got the Oilers on the board with his 22nd of the season.
But after starting the trip with a disappointing loss against the Canucks, Marchand offered some perspective in an interview with NESN during the first intermission Thursday night.
“I think for our group, we want to make sure that everyone’s accountable every night and you do your job,” he said. “I think we all, we don’t want to let each other down. I think that’s just been the staple of our organization for a long time, and no one’s the exception here.
“We all rely on each other to be good and compete hard. We can live with mistakes when everyone’s competing and working because those are easy things to fix. That’s the staple of our game and what we want to continue to bring each night.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.