In a whale of a finish, David Krejci, Bruins sink Hurricanes in OT
The distant sons of the Forever .500s showed up on Causeway Street Tuesday night, doing business these days as the Carolina Hurricanes, and carried their sea-green throwback Hartford colors with pride. And to defeat.
After mounting a 2-0 lead by early in the second period — on a pair of strikes by Sebastian Aho — the Team That Left Hartford Heartbroken suffered a 4-3 defeat when David Krejci, set up by Jake DeBrusk with 1:46 gone in overtime, extended the Bruins point streak to 17 games (13-0-4).
If that sounds like the same ol’, same ol’ Whalers, well, such in lingering taint of that Hartford heritage. But the truth is, the resurgent Hurricanes look like a legit playoff team. In fact, for much of the first 30 minutes, there was a postseason atmosphere inside TD Garden, particularly when the Whalercanes moved to the 2-0 lead with only 1:10 gone in the second.
“They have a good team,” noted Boston tender Jaroslav Halak, who snuffed out 34 shots and improved his record to 18-9-4. “They keep coming hard . . . that’s why they’ve had such a good record since December. They hit. They skate well. They forecheck well . . . I think it took us a while, but we figured it out as the game went on and we started making better plays.”
The Bruins battled back to tie, 2-2, in the latter half of the second period on strikes by Chris Wagner (10) and DeBrusk (22) and finally moved to the lead early in the third when Patrice Bergeron converted a shorthanded strike off a Brad Marchand dish with 2:45 gone. It was veteran Justin Williams, off a sweet dish from Jordan Martinook, who knocked home the 3-3 equalizer with 7:43 left in regulation.
The sellout crowd of 17,565 was charged throughout, unlike two nights earlier during a flat, near-funereal 1-0 win over the AAA New Jersey Devils. For as dull as Saturday was, the match vs. the ’Canes was alive from the start, especially after Micheal Ferland connected on Bruins newcomer Marcus Johansson with a pulverizing check along the wall less than four minutes into the first period.
Johansson, acquired Feb. 25 in a swap with the Devils, was finished for the night. He appeared to take the brunt of the blow to his left shoulder and rib cage. The Bruins followed standard postgame protocol and offered very little in terms of an update or the winger’s future availability.
“I believe he went to the hospital and they’ll give an update tomorrow,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “It looks encouraging, but I don’t want to speak out of turn. When all the tests are done, we’ll have a better answer in the morning.”
The hit, though clean, summoned a response from veteran forward David Backes, who put up his dukes for the third time in four games and took on Ferland. Unable to deliver on the scoresheet as the third-line right winger, Backes has taken it upon himself the last couple of weeks to be the Black-and-Gold’s gun for hire. Not the role envisioned here when he signed his five-year, $30 million pact in July 2016.
It is an uncomfortable fit, particularly given the veteran winger’s long record of concussions. His fights last week vs. San Jose and Tampa were his first bouts in back-to-back games in his proud 13-year career.
Cassidy lauded Backes for taking on the new role, but also acknowledged being worried about the 34-year-old Warrior.
“I do . . . I worry about . . . ,” said Cassidy. “. . . listen, they are human beings first. And when you coach them every day, that’s always a concern.”
Backes said he felt it was an “opportunity to step up . . . and fill that role.” He noted that he met with Cassidy during the club’s recent long road trip and the two agreed he could be put in places and situations where he had a bigger impact on games.
“Whether that’s with my gloves off or my gloves on,” mused Backes, “he’s provided me those opportunities and hopefully I’ve done the job for him.”
Asked if, given his concussion history, he worries about such altercations, Backes added, “My wife probably does . . . but that can’t be a thought in your head when you are out playing in the NHL. She might worry about me driving over 65 miles an hour on the Pike, too, and potential car accidents or whatever else.”
Later, he added, “I guess it’s a calculated decision, and if I am going to stay a part of this team, and stay a part a winning team, maybe that is going to be part of my role. And I’m OK with it — sticking up for one another is a staple of what we do here.”
Be it ironic or coincidental, Ferland was hurt in the fight. After serving out his five-minute fighting major, he came back for a shift or two and soon was shut down for the night.
Krecji’s 3-on-3 winner came seconds after DeBrusk flipped onto the ice in a swap with Matt Grzelcyk following a draw in Boston’s defensive end. DeBrusk quickly forced the puck away from Justin Faulk deep in the Carolina zone, then worked his way over to the left wing and sent a soft-serve dish into the slot for Krejci to knock home for the winner.
Next up, Florida (here Thursday night). The Bruins haven’t posted a regulation loss since Jan. 19. It just feels like the streak goes back to when the Whalers left town.