Every season should have some magic, a little bit of wonderment, pixiedust sprinkled Tinkerbell-like over a moment to suspend reality, or at least interrupt what can be the monotony of a grinding, seemingly unending season.
Tinkerbell showed up late on Causeway Street on Saturday night and emptied out her 55-gallon drums of wonderment.
Down by two goals with less than two minutes left in regulation, the Bruins rallied back to tie with a pair of David Krejci goals (each with goalie Tuukka Rask pulled) 48 seconds apart and then won it, 5-4, when Torey Krug raced the length of the ice and finished off with a dramatic doorstep backhander with 2:19 remaining in the 3-on-3 overtime.
Krug, just back after missing five games with injury, began the play from his own goal line, just to the left of Rask, and galloped like a Triple Crown champion through a porous Wild trio of Zach Parise, Luke Kunin, and Brad Hunt. Rare is there such open ice in today’s buttoned-down and oft-robotic NHL, even in the open acreage that overtime affords, and Krug ate up every inch of space in his 200-foot tour de force that delivered Boston’s ninth win on home ice this season.
Bruins fans of a certain age — Boomer Alert! — will recall when Bobby Orr made such wizardry de rigueur on Causeway Street during his legendary career. Krug is no Orr, because no one can recreate that time, that talent that duende, but the winning rush was of near-No. 4 caliber.
The Wild defense, soft as Charmin and quickly flushed, disintegrated like a sand castle taken asunder by a rising tide on a hot summer afternoon on Crane Beach. And the opportunistic Krug, eating up ground the way a kid dreams of in street hockey and pond hockey, zipped right down Broadway and tucked his trickery through the pads of defenseless Wild tender Alex Stalock.
Game over, the Bruins left sitting pretty, and comfortable, atop the Atlantic Division with a 15-3-5 record and still the only team in the Original 31 yet to endure a regulation loss on home ice (9-0-4).
‘I obviously wanted to come up [ice] a little bit slower,” said Krug, the 5-foot-9-inch dynamo who remains on course to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 next year. “See what my options were. Came up the left side to mess with Parise’s gap — once I took a couple of hard strides, I realized I could beat him.”
The pixie dust, now dropping in big flakes from the Garden rafters, was about to create raging blizzard before the home crowd of 17,850.
Parise, who badly misread the attack, suddenly was chasing in Krug’s vapor trail. Opportunity then turned into hilarity when Krug hit the offensive blue line and found Kunin and Hunt farther apart than the Republican and Democrat parties. Clear entry. Zero resistance.
“Parting of the sea,” said a subdued Krug, who finished with a 1-2—3 line, who had Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with him on the rush. “Marchy and Bergy drew some attention as well — and all of a sudden I was in alone.”
None of it would have been possible without the late third-period drama that had Krejci erasing Minny’s 4-2 lead with his back-to-back strikes, the Bruins skating 6-on-5 for the first one and then 6-on-4 for the equalizer, the second coming with 67 seconds remaining in regulation.
For much of the night, the Bruins found it nearly impossible to find a foothold in the game, in part because of a rash of minor penalties that by the end of the night had the Wild a lopsided 7-3 differential in power plays — amounting to 11:56 of man up time vs. 4:24.
“Peel and Kozari were arguably [Minnesota’s] two best players tonight,” said a sardonic coach Bruce Cassidy, referring to referees Tim Peel and Steve Kozari.
Cassidy rarely mentions officiating, but he could seen jawing on the bench a number of times at the beleaguered guys in stripes.
“I’ve never seen a game like that where, you are [facing] seven penalties when it’s a close game,” added Cassidy, addressing the imbalance of the calls. “Typically it’s because the game gets out of hand. You get roughing calls, you start acting goofy. But it seemed there was stuff going on each way. We got flagged on it. But we got our calls in the end.”
Bergeron, who finished with four assists, picked up helpers on Krejci’s two in the third and also on Krug’s GWG. Krug was next with three points. Jake DeBrusk and Marchand each chipped in with two points.
“I didn’t see the puck go in,” said Krug, recreating the final moments of the win. “I just heard the crowd and heard Bergy and Marchy scream. And all of a sudden someone is off the bench and hugging me — right there, when you score those goals, it’s just natural emotion and energy. That’s what you saw.”
Next up for the Bruins: a visit with the Canadiens on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre and a stop in Ottawa on Wednesday. They aren’t back on home ice until Friday for their 1 p.m. holiday matinee against the Rangers.
Perhaps by then, the Garden bull gang will have cleaned up the pixie dust.
“It’s not often you see a defenseman go end to end in overtime,” said a smiling Marchand, “and split their guys and dance the goalie. So great for him to get, and great for us and a lot of fun.”