WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The trip had looked daunting, a three-games-in-four-nights swing through some of the stiffer competition in the Western Conference’s Central Division, a mirror image to the West Coast trip that had shoved the Bruins further behind the competition.
But with one game to go, this trip has been vastly different. It’s not necessarily because the Bruins have played so much better than they did in losses to Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose, it’s that they’ve managed to pull out the points they couldn’t on that trip. Points they knew they needed.
That was why, before the third period started on Wednesday night in St. Paul, the Bruins acknowledged how important it was. They had just withstood an onslaught from the Wild in the second period, surviving more than anything, and vowed that this would not go the same as other recent games.
“You definitely want to get back on the winning column,” Patrice Bergeron said after the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win over the Wild. “That extra point was really important for us. We definitely talked about it, even before the third period, to find a way and to battle, and even though we couldn’t do it in the third, we still stayed with it and we found a way to get that point. It’s definitely a confidence booster for us.”
It was also a booster in the standings. With the two points, the Bruins have earned three out of four available on their trip, with one game to go against the Jets on Friday, a team struggling with significant injuries to their defense.
In getting those points, the Bruins moved past the Panthers and Capitals and into position for the final wild-card spot, though both of those teams have games in hand.
Still, after having lost eight of their last 10 games, including the last two in shootouts, it was hard to overstate the need to turn things around.
“It’s a cliché, but the little things, they add up to big things that add up to wins,” Chris Kelly had said before the game against Minnesota. “I don’t think we’re doing those little things consistently throughout the game that we have been or we need to. We’re getting points but we’re not getting the results that we want or the game the way it should be played, in our eyes.
“We expect to be better. We need to be better. We’re not satisfied losing in a shootout. We’re far too proud to be satisfied with just getting a point and being happy with it.”
It helped that the Bruins got some of the bounces they hadn’t been getting. Against the Ducks and Kings, the Bruins had played fairly well. But they hadn’t been able to get the goals they needed, hadn’t even been able to pull out an overtime point in those games, a fact that coach Claude Julien bemoaned upon returning to Boston. After a bad loss to the Sharks and a desperately needed win over the Coyotes, the Bruins emerged with mixed feelings about a four-game trip in which they had gotten just two points.
They didn’t solve those issues in the first two games of this trip, but they also didn’t leave the games with nothing to show for them. So, yes, it helped to see the knuckle-puck by Bergeron that gave them their second goal on Wednesday, the hockey gods smiling down on them for once. It helped to see Loui Eriksson score the team a third goal — a level they have had trouble reaching of late — in overtime.
Did it balance out some of the tough luck the team has had, the Bruins able to pull out two points in a game in which they perhaps did not deserve to do so?
“I think so,” Julien said. “In the third period, I didn’t think we had enough. But it was nice to see our team in overtime kind of take charge there and find a way to win a hockey game by showing some real good determination.”
Part of that came in net. The Bruins have gotten exceptional goaltending in the first two games of the trip, with Tuukka Rask and Niklas Svedberg bailing them out in some tough situations. They needed 38 saves from Rask in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss in Nashville, and another 35 from Svedberg on Wednesday.
And with all those saves, they got three points. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but in those results there was some relief for the Bruins, who had seemed to feel their season starting to spin out of control as they couldn’t score and couldn’t stop losing.
“We’ll definitely take it,” Bergeron said after they had pulled out the game against the Wild. “We’ll definitely take the extra point.”