Jake DeBrusk is proof you can’t keep a good player down.
Scoring twice in the third period, the first of which came moments after he absorbed a friendly-fire shot to the leg Monday, DeBrusk lifted the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Penguins in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
The Bruins thrilled a sold-out crowd of 39,243 at the fabled yard by extending their home record to 19-0-3.
Fenway Park, which turns 111 in April, nearly saw a Black-and-Gold victory from the visitors, who struck for a quick goal in the second period (Kasperi Kapanen) and held the lead until DeBrusk’s dollops of magic in the third.
“I feel blessed, honestly, to be in this position,” said DeBrusk, who has become a major piece of the NHL’s best team (29-4-4) after a rough couple of seasons.
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery shuffled his lines to start the third period, putting David Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and giving David Krejci new wingers (Taylor Hall and DeBrusk). DeBrusk had seen that move before. He wasn’t bothered by the temporary demotion.
“I think I’ve learned a lot over the last year and a half or two years about what works in my game, no matter who I’m playing with and what role I’m in,” he said. “Honestly, I just want to help in any way I can. I think that’s something everyone in our lineup has.”
The Bruins had a chance to tie it at 5:40 of the third, when Brian Dumoulin tripped Marchand. Near the end of the advantage, DeBrusk took a Matt Grzelcyk slapper to the leg and labored to regain his stance as Marchand was giving the slip to Jeff Carter out high.
“That’s the nature of the business at the front of the net,” DeBrusk said. “I was trying to wear it off. I understood the play we were looking for was to get it to me and make me make a decision after that.”
Marchand went down low to DeBrusk, who wheeled and stuffed a shot under Casey DeSmith to tie the score.
Game on. Fenway was alive.
DeBrusk struck again with 2:24 left, off a rebound from Hall and another scramble in front that left him with his 16th goal of the season. He is on track for 30-plus, which would be a career high.
“He’s a lot tougher than people think, and he’s more committed than people are aware,” said Montgomery, who has gotten the 26-year-old DeBrusk’s best after a rough few seasons under former coach Bruce Cassidy. “Because of those things, his game is growing. He’s matured. You can see it.”
Goalie Linus Ullmark, beaten only by a perfect shot by Kapanen, stopped the other 26 shots he saw. He had to be sharp down to the end, when the game ended with a Penguins flurry that saw an Evgeni Malkin shot cross the line after time expired.
The pace of the game was far more sluggish than the wild, 6-5 overtime win the Bruins scored in Pittsburgh Nov. 1, which culminated in an end-to-end Hampus Lindholm OT strike.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead at 8:40 of the second. The lone goal of the first 40 minutes arrived on a seemingly harmless dumped puck into the corner and a conga line of players chasing it. Carter harassed Connor Clifton into a turnover, and Danton Heinen, who had a step on Derek Forbort, slipped it to the front.
Standing in front of the net, Kapanen roofed a feed from Heinen, the former Bruins winger, over Ullmark’s glove. It was the Penguins’ third shot of the period, and they earned it despite the Bruins’ tight checking.
The Bruins had reason to be a bit miffed about the goal, considering it came moments after they were called offside on a 2-on-1, even though a replay clearly showed Marchand was dragging his skate on the blue line as Krejci entered the zone.
Ullmark, too, must have been irritated by the quick strike. He was excellent in the early going, denying bids by Malkin and Sidney Crosby after Bruins turnovers. He stopped 19 of 20 through 40 minutes.
The Bruins woke up after Kapanen’s goal, finishing the opening 40 minutes behind, 20-19, on the shot counter. Their best chances came in the first period, when DeBrusk (game-high five shots on goal) hit the far post on a shot from the left wing. DeBrusk also saw a puck hop over his stick when he had an opening at the left post.
The Penguins’ bullpen was keeping them in it. Starting netminder Tristan Jarry (eight saves) left at 15:30 of the first period, hobbling to the clubhouse with an apparent right leg issue. In came DeSmith, who stopped 19 of 21, but couldn’t handle DeBrusk down low.
All’s well that ends well in Bruins country. It was a party on Lansdowne Street well into the evening.
“It is a special team,” Bergeron said. “I’ve said that many times. I think it’s OK to say that and embrace that.”