The horn had long sounded, but Brad Marchand hadn’t heard it. The building was loud and he was focused and, he believed, on his way to scoring a goal. He only found out later that it wasn’t even really that close, with two seconds going by between the time the first period ended and the time the puck crossed the goal line.
His bench laughed at him.
“He seemed real focused,” coach Claude Julien said. “You know, he was so focused that he thought that first goal at the end of the first was a good goal. He didn’t know that the clock was done. I think he scored two seconds later, but in his mind it was a good goal.”
Marchand laughed too, later, after it was all over and the Bruins had won and he had added two goals to his season total, the first of the game and an empty-netter, as Boston took down the Kings, 3-1, on Saturday night at TD Garden.
“Almost had a hat trick,” he said.
Marchand didn’t need the hat trick, as it turned out, after an effort that Julien called “one of his better games.” Instead the Bruins rode a solid, heavy, physical 60 minutes on their way to beating the defending Stanley Cup champions who are, surprisingly, out of the playoff structure at the moment.
Boston, meanwhile, continues to solidify its position, finishing out a January in which the team went 8-1-3.
Given some of the teams that the Bruins have faced in that stretch — the Penguins, Lightning, Rangers, Islanders, and Kings — it seems they are poised to remain in position, even with their difficult schedule continuing into the next month.
This game, though, was much the same as the one which the Bruins lost to the Kings on Dec. 2, a defensive battle in which the outcome was in doubt until the final minutes. That one went to the Kings, 2-0, at Staples Center. This one — one that Chris Kelly called a “typical LA-Boston game” — went the other way.
“Two big strong teams,” Julien said. “I think we battled for every inch of the ice we had to get tonight. We had to earn it. It was nice to see our team compete for that whole 60 minutes and stay on top of their game. These are the kind of games I think everybody gets up for, including coaches. Those are fun games to coach, fun games to play in, and I’m sure the fans enjoyed watching it as well.”
It wasn’t until 17:20 of the second period that Marchand put the puck in the net — officially, that is — when he sent it past Jonathan Quick from beyond the left circle through traffic. And it seemed, for a time, as if that goal might stand.
But then, with 7:00 to go in the third, Jordan Nolan tallied the equalizer on a long-range shot that beat Tuukka Rask and tied the score. Scoring on Rask, these days, is a rarity, with the Bruins goaltender amassing a sterling goals against average this month as the Bruins have soared.
Fortunately, his team didn’t let the score last.
Just 1:33 later, Kelly tipped a long shot from Carl Soderberg. Though nothing happened — no goal light — it seemed as if the puck had sneaked into the netting under the crossbar. The goal was good, eventually standing as the winner, with Marchand adding his second (the empty-netter) at 19:43.
“I didn’t even know it went in, to be honest,” Kelly said. “That’s why I was trying to get the rebound after. I think Torey [Krug] knew right away. I actually heard a linesman say to the ref, ‘I think that went in,’ so the replay works in your favor sometimes.”
The game was that close partially due to the play of Rask, again. The goalie saved 30 of the 31 shots he saw in the game, stopping an excellent Jeff Carter rebound chance at 8:38 of the first, and a breakaway by Nick Shore ahead of Gregory Campbell at 13:23 of the second.
Both stops, in the end, were needed.
So with another stellar performance from Rask, with a good defensive game, with just enough scoring to win, the Bruins added another crucial two points to their total.
They have, in the last month, turned around their season. But there’s still work to do, especially with the teams ahead of the Bruins — Tampa Bay, Montreal, and Detroit — winning just as consistently.
“We knew how important this month was to get ourselves back in the picture and we did just that,” Milan Lucic said. “Winning eight out of 12 games and getting much-needed points and moving up the standings.
“So it’s a great January and we’re happy the way that we played, and the mind-set has to be that we need to carry this on to February.”