The Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand connection paid more dividends on Sunday afternoon, when the two combined for the winning goal in a 2-1 overtime decision over the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden.
Marchand, weaving with Bergeron high in the offensive zone, took a drop pass from his pal, and banked a shot off Avalanche forward Matt Calvert and past goalie Semyon Varlamov with 57 seconds left in OT.
It was quite unlike the high-flying, 6-3 loss in Colorado the Bruins suffered on Nov. 14. Boston, playing its fifth game in eight days, hosted a Colorado team at the end of a three-in-four road trip. The pace was sludgy, the scoring chances few.
“You could see it in the guys that it’s been a long week,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, pleased his club jumped Montreal for third in the Atlantic Division with 70 points. “We acknowledged between periods, let’s just be patient.”
They had to be that, scoreless from John Moore’s tying goal 3:40 into the second until Marchand’s fortunate finish. Having Jaroslav Halak between the pipes made it easier.
The backup goalie, who stopped 35 of 36 shots, left with his first win in nearly six weeks. He was 0-3-2 in five appearances since beating Calgary on Jan. 3.
A potential confidence-builder for Halak, who was on fire in October (.947 save percentage) and saw his save percentage regress each month, down to a lowly .863 in January.
“It’s nice to win a game again. It’s been a while,” said Halak, now 14-9-4 on the season with a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage. “We’ll see. You know what they say, you’re as good as your last game.”
This one included a second-period breakaway stop on Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon, which came during Boston’s 0-for-5 performance on the power play.
Boston was on the man-up for a glittering chance to win late in regulation. Torey Krug, who took two penalties of his own, drew a holding call on Sheldon Dries with 2:15 left. The Bruins couldn’t beat Varlamov (33 saves).
In OT, Varlamov denied Charlie McAvoy on a quick-strike setup after Sean Kuraly forced a turnover, and held his short post when Krug faked a wraparound. Varlamov didn’t see the winner, which eluded him through traffic.
Just like he planned, joked Marchand, who jumped into a tie for 12th in the NHL’s scoring race (21-44—65, one point behind teammate David Pastrnak).
The Bruins, playing their second matinee in as many days, will finish a stretch of six games in 10 days on Tuesday against Chicago. They were sleepy at the outset, and a rude awakening came with 32 seconds left before the first intermission.
With five seconds remaining on a Krug hooking penalty and not much else working for Colorado, MacKinnon took it upon himself. The Nova Scotia dynamo, Marchand’s summertime training buddy, spun off Brandon Carlo’s check, which was hard enough to knock him of balance but not hard enough to put him on his rear. MacKinnon put on a stickhandling show for Zdeno Chara and Marchand, both of whom had seats in the front of the net. MacKinnon finished with a spectacular strike, far side, top shelf, on a stunned Halak.
“That’s why he gets paid a lot of money,” Halak said, “to make shots like that.”
The Bruins have taken points from each of their last seven games (4-0-3) and are in playoff position, while Colorado has fallen off the map. The Avalanche have five regulation wins in their last 26 games (5-15-6). They haven’t won in three weeks (0-4-3 since Jan. 19).
Lest Boston be caught napping against such a club, Moore responded to MacKinnon’s shot with 3:40 gone in the second. He snuck a far-side shot of his own, through another screen set by Calvert, past Varlamov from 40 feet.
The Bruins were poised to extend the lead minutes later, when a hard-charging Kuraly drew a holding call on MacKinnon, and ex-Bruin Carl Soderberg made an unwise play to interfere with McAvoy on a shorthanded rush up the ice.
The Bruins missed chances on the five on three — Krug couldn’t fire into an empty net — and nearly allowed a shorthanded goal.
Out of the box, MacKinnon took a loose puck in full flight from the neutral zone, slowed down, and tried to slip it past Halak. But the goalie outwaited the Avalanche star and denied him with his left pad.
“You’ve got a fresh player coming out of the box. Anybody else but MacKinnon,” said Halak, who tried to keep his five-hole closed. “It stayed out. A big save for our guys.”