Sloppy in the first two periods, the Bruins finally sent a matinee crowd happily back to their Thanksgiving leftovers and off to their Black Friday sales.
Spotting the Rangers two goals, they battled back to send it to overtime. That’s where David Krejci scored the winner 1:40 in, snapping a brilliant David Pastrnak feed past Rangers netminder Hank Lundqvist to give the Bruins (18-3-5) a 3-2 win, their sixth in a row.
Simply put, the Bruins’ high-end skill is keeping them atop the NHL standings (41 points, tied with the Capitals).
“It’s a bit of an ongoing concern,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of the low-energy start, wondering if the October buzz has worn off, and his team is hitting a wall from last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. “We thought it might happen at some point.”
Playing their third game in four days, the Block Letter B’s (retro third jerseys) fizzled out after the opening minutes and recorded just 15 shots through two periods. Heavy legs and ill-advised passes let the Rangers (12-9-3), winners of three in a row before Friday, push the play.
But the Bruins have Pastrnak, who added to his league-best goal total with a signature one-timer in the third period. After Sean Kuraly cut a Ranger lead to 2-1 with 1:32 left in the second period, Pastrnak and Krejci hooked up for the tying goal, 4:27 into the third.
Pastrnak raced into the zone after a Torey Krug rainbow pass over the neutral zone, and might have drawn a slashing call when Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei whacked him on the hands as he misfired a shot. No matter, since Jake DeBrusk (two assists), replacing Brad Marchand on the line while Marchand was checked for a concussion, beat Skjei to the puck in the corner. Pastrnak, settling into his office in the left circle, smacked a rebound through Lundqvist after DeBrusk’s slick pass to the slot gave Krejci a bid.
It was his 24th goal in 26 games, leaving him on pace for 75. Only six players in league history have scored that many, and none since Teemu Selanne and Alex Mogilny in 1992-93.
Long way to go there, but Pastrnak did make some history Friday: He is the fourth player in NHL history with 12-plus goals in the first two months of a season, and the first since Mario Lemieux in 1992-93. The others: Wayne Gretzky (1981-82, ’83-84) and Mike Bossy (1984-85).
And in overtime, the unstoppable Czech turned a 1-on-2 into a GWG.
Taking a backhand feed from a curling Krejci, he entered the zone and toe-dragged through Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich, protecting the puck with his skate. He swung his hips and hooked a pass around defenseman Adam Fox to a trailing Krejci. Lundqvist, playing Pastrnak square, was facing the corner, on his knees and just outside his crease. He had little chance to stop Krejci’s top-shelf finish.
“He’s such a good, dynamic player,” said Krejci, who again rode in the No. 1 center slot with Patrice Bergeron (core/groin injury) out for the third game in a row. “He can draw three guys to him and other guys get open.”
Netminder Jaroslav Halak was massive, stopping 26 of 28 shots. He also racked up an assist on the 3-on-3 winner, which came after the Bruins spent a chunk of regulation killing six Ranger power plays. That tied their season high (2 for 8 against San Jose on Oct. 29).
“Tough game,” Pastrnak said. “Couldn’t get anything going, but we stuck with it. Our kill and Jaro gave us a great chance.”
Halak, and his horses. Brandon Carlo logged 5:37 on the penalty kill, second only to ageless PK partner Zdeno Chara (7:20). In a tied third period, the Bruins also had to stave off a double-minor to Par Lindholm, a high-sticking penalty that wasn’t initially called on the ice.
No kill was bigger than a 5 on 3 midway through the second period. That situation occurred after a Matt Grzelcyk high-stick (well earned; he chopped Mika Zibanejad in the throat) and a Kuraly cross-check (a light call; he shoved Fox in the rear).
“Probably the difference at the end of the day,” Cassidy said. “All the kills, really. We had enough of them, again.”
And enough frustration to leave their brows furrowed, even after another thrilling comeback. Their games softening, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork were benched in the second. On one rush into the Rangers zone, Krejci slipped and fell in the high slot, taking out Charlie McAvoy (game-high 25:22 TOI) before the Bruins could get a shot. Minutes later, McAvoy, annoyed by Brendan Smith’s presence in front of the net, dropped the gloves with Smith and took the worst of it.
Marchand wondered if the Bruins were chasing the game because of a Thanksgiving hangover.
“It’s a losing recipe if we continue to play games that way,” Marchand said. “We can’t afford to play 20 minutes every night and think we’re a good team. We’ve gotten away with it a couple of times.”