A day later, talk of Torey Krug’s dazzling overtime goal Saturday night at the Garden, the one that lifted the Bruins to a 5-4 win over the Wild, filled old-world public chat rooms such as New England church gathering spaces, gas station convenient marts, and doughnut shops.
Floyd the barber, of course, closed shop for the day to watch football.
Had the play gone according to plan — and, oh, how the Wild’s three skaters wish Krug had stuck to the script — the veteran defenseman was supposed to dish away the puck roughly one-third of the way up the ice. Lugging the puck and prepared to shift to warp speed, Krug crossed out of his own zone with Brad Marchand slightly ahead of the play on left wing and ditto for Patrice Bergeron on the right side.
As planned, Krug was driving the play from the back end, standard fare in 3-on-3 overtime hockey. OT turns hockey into a game of slingshot. And the Wild were about to be shot.
“I’m just trying to be open right away,” said Bergeron, reciting how the play was designed. “We had a play set up on that particular instance.”
Per design, Krug was supposed to toss the puck to Bergeron, who in turn would bump it back to Krug, who in turn would laser a pass to Marchand breaking wide on the wing. Add a little travelin’ music . . . and away we go.
It’s precisely that play that the Wild’s three skaters anticipated in their man-to-man coverage. Zach Parise would force Krug to give it up near mid-ice, and the two back defenders, Brad Hunt on the right and Luke Kunin on the left, would pick up either Bergeron or Marchand.
If the play were covered properly, it might force a low-percentage shot from outside, or perhaps force Marchand to circle back out of the zone with the puck and try to generate a different entry, recreate the slingshot.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Parise eased off his coverage of Krug in the neutral zone, opening wide the center of the ice, with a Waze-like track there for Krug to follow straight down Broadway. Parise never had chance to recalculate.
Up on the ninth floor, in his customary perch, team president Cam Neely spotted the open path.
“I was a little surprised by the two defenders, how wide they got,” a diplomatic Neely said Sunday, following a World Trade Center event at which he unveiled the club’s new third sweater. “Then I was thinking, ‘I hope Torey sees the opening there.’ Thankfully, he did, and he turned on the jets. You always wonder, if they’re seeing at ice level what we’re seeing on the ninth floor, right? It’s all a little slower when you’re watching from up there.”
Neely, not unlike the Wild defenders, was thinking, “OK, Krug’s going to pick it up and give it one of his wingers, March or Bergy, on the fly, so they can have speed on the entry.”
Instead, Hunt and Kunin morphed into . . . wait for it . . . Laurel and Hardy, and Krug took all the space they offered. As he zipped down the slot, all three Wild skaters waved their extended sticks his way, with astonished goaltender Alex Stalock aware of the doom about to be dropped at his doorstep.
“I mean, not often you go end to end, right?” said Neely. “Not even on 3-on-3, when you think you might be able to do a little bit more.”
Krug read the play perfectly, as if he, too, were sitting in a comfy roller chair on the ninth floor. He was not near full flight as he left the defensive zone.
“Came up the left side a little bit to mess with Parise’s gap,” he recalled. “Once I took a couple of hard strides I realized I could beat him, parting of the sea. Marchy and Bergy drew some attention as well, and all of a sudden I was in alone.”
As Krug closed down the slot and angled toward the right post, Stalock dropped to his knees. Just as he neared the blue paint in the crease, Krug shoveled off a backhander and the puck squeezed through the tender’s pads and bled over the line.
The clock frozen with 2:19 left in overtime. Krug wasn’t aware he’d won it until he curled out of the right offensive corner and saw his teammates spilling over the boards like schoolboys set free at the recess bell.
“I heard the crowd,”said Krug, who looked akin to drum major leading a marching band during his goal celebration. “Then I heard Bergy and Marchy scream, so 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.”
Somewhat overshadowed in the drama was that David Krejci, both times on velvety feeds from Bergeron, scored a pair of third-period goals in span of 48 seconds, erasing the Wild’s 4-2 lead. On both strikes, the Bruins had pulled goalie Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker. On the 4-4 equalizer, which had the Bruins skating with a 6-on-4 advantage, Bergeron first had to race back to the bench to replace a broken stick. He returned and fed deep on the wing for Krejci to hammer home a one-time slapper from a sharp angle.
Combined, including the pair of Krejci strikes and then Krug’s wizardry, the Bruins transformed standard-cut NHL hockey into what felt more like the stuff that is played on streets and ponds. It lacked only someone yelling, “Car!” or a black lab chasing down a puck that had skittered over a snowbank.
Everyone in the crowd of 17,850 should have been offered a cup of mom’s hot chocolate as they headed home.
“Having the celebration after the [Krejci] goal that tied the game, those are great feelings,” said Krug.
“Those are moments that bring a team together throughout a season. That group of guys on the ice take a lot of pride in making things happen. To come back and celebrate on the bench with those guys, and see how excited they are, that’s a special thing. Those are moments that bring a group together, and we’ll try to embrace it.”