PITTSBURGH — Down the hall from the Bruins’ happy, but hustlin’-outta-there dressing room, team president Cam Neely was appreciating the moment.
A 4-3 win over the Penguins gave the team its 59th win of the year, tied for the third-most in NHL history. It set a franchise record for points (123, 59-12-5) and made Jim Montgomery the NHL’s winningest first-year coach. David Pastrnak’s hat trick pushed him into 100-point territory for the first time, and kept up his chase for the first 60-goal season by a Bruin since 1974-75.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride from the start of the season,” Neely said, acknowledging that he mostly ignored the high points of his Hall of Fame career until it was over. “We all want to win the last game of the year. That’s the ultimate. But I want our team to appreciate what they’ve accomplished. It’s not everything, but it’s something.
“I mean, when you go through a season and the only thing that’s negative recently has been the power play, that’s a great thing.”
About that: The Bruins went 2 for 3 on Saturday, so that talk can wait another day.
Pastrnak (54th, 55th and 56th goals of the season) and Charlie McAvoy (power-play goal), along with Jeremy Swayman (21 stops) were the headliners in an emotional win over a potential first-round opponent.
The 14th hat trick of Pastrnak’s career arrived on the winner, a blistering one-timer from the slot that sizzled by Tristan Jarry at 17:34 of the third.
Pastrnak’s second goal, at 7:07 of the third, was a deflected shot from the circle that sailed under the bar. Play continued because officials believed Pastrnak had hit the crossbar, which would have been the Bruins’ fourth post strike of the afternoon.
He knew, of course. The Bruins tried to get a stoppage. On the bench, McAvoy saw the green light flashing on a monitor, signaling an overturn from the league office in Toronto.
“I saw it right away,” Pastrnak said, “plus I heard the little water bottle sound.”
Now up to 56-46–102, Pastrnak has his first 100-point season. The Bruins’ list of 100-point seasons in the last three decades includes Adam Oates (twice, in 1992-93 and 1993-94), Joé Juneau (1993-94), Joe Thornton (2002-03), Brad Marchand (2018-19), and the $90 million man.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve said many times, I’d probably take 100 over 50 goals. I’m very happy. Big thanks to my linemates and my teammates.”
Among Bruins, only Phil Esposito, who had seasons of 61, 66, 68 and 76 goals, has scored more in a season than Pastrnak. His last time reaching 60 was 1974-75.
“I had no clue,” said Pastrnak, who wasn’t sure if he had ever met Espo. “Humbles me, especially with an organization like the Bruins with so much history. I love Boston.”
Jake Guentzel tied it at 3 with 7:30 left, one-timing a pass from the wing past a heavily screened Swayman. The Bruins challenged, but officials ruled that while Sidney Crosby’s stick did make contact with the netminder’s mask, Brandon Carlo caused it. It was the first coach’s challenge the Bruins have lost this year (5-1).
The Bruins’ penalty kill, which snuffed out that delay-of-game call, got a workout. They were 6 for 6, including a 45-second five-on-three that saw Rickard Rakell swipe McAvoy’s stick out of his hands.
Montgomery said he was iffy on the Crosby challenge because, in his view, the NHL protects some of its superstars. He noted that every time the Bruins are there, they always seem to kill a lot of penalties.
“I call it the Sid Rules,” Montgomery said, putting his spin on the NBA’s old Jordan Rules. “He’s a great player. He’s a great player. And you know what, the league should take care of their superstars. That’s why I was kind of hesitant about challenging it.”
Did he think the Bruins were on the wrong end of the officiating?
“No,” Montgomery said. “No, I don’t think we were on the wrong end of anything. But I do think the hockey gods rewarded us in the end.”
Pastrnak joked that the Bruins’ power play struggles because the league’s best PK (86.7 percent) “takes our confidence down a little bit.” They’ll take a PPG like Pastrnak’s at 1:41 of the second, when Dmitry Orlov whipped a 50-foot backhand on net and Pastrnak redirected it between Jarry’s legs.
The Bruins suffocating the Penguins (shots, 24-16) in the first two periods, Swayman didn’t see much volume (15 saves). But the Penguins got behind the defense enough to force Swayman to make several stops off the rush, including a rapid-fire stoning of Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Josh Archibald with about seven minutes left in the second.
The Bruins spent much of the first period in the offensive zone — shots were 12-4, not including a pair of hit posts — but left tied at 1.
They took the lead at 6:20 when McAvoy, who hit the post in the opening minutes, cashed an open-net chance after a diving Pavel Zacha made a cross-crease feed. Setting up Zacha was Tyler Bertuzzi, who continues to show his hands and vision.
The Penguins scored 1:13 later to tie it. Crosby, well covered entering the Bruins’ zone, slipped a feed through Orlov’s legs to Rust, who finished in tight at 7:33.
Early in the third, moments after Pastrnak hit the crossbar, Rust scored his second of the game at 4:09. McAvoy, backsliding to cut off the middle, lost his grip on the ice and knocked Swayman out of the way of the puck. It trickled over the line to tie the score.
Then came the third period, when “Pasta put the team on his back,” Swayman said. “It was special to watch.”
But they were already thinking about Sunday’s game in St. Louis.
“Trying to just stay in the moment,” McAvoy said. “One day at a time. One game at a time. Not thinking too far in the future.
“Never too high. Never too low.”
Matt Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.