After looking all too ready for their impending vacation, the Bruins took down the “out of office” auto-reply and entered the break on a winning note.
Third-period goals by Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci erased a sluggish, frustrating start, and earned them a 3-2 win Tuesday over the visiting Golden Knights.
DeBrusk’s ripper of a snapshot 4:26 into the final frame tied the score, and set up Krejci for the winner with 7:42 to go. Netminder Jaroslav Halak (27 saves), who has had his misadventures playing the puck this season, jumped out to play the puck at the top of the circle. He sent it up the ice to Charlie Coyle for a tap to a streaking DeBrusk, who sent a screamer over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove for his 15th of the year. It was Halak’s second assist of the season and 12th of his career.
The winner was a mix of skill and timing from Krejci, who missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury and was a question mark to play the final game before a nine-day break between games (Jan. 22-30, including the All-Star Weekend in St. Louis).
Brandon Carlo sent a wrister toward the net and Krejci, with good position in front, tipped the shot off Fleury’s left pad. All alone at the post, Krejci jammed home a fortunate bounce.
That goal helped the Bruins forget a moribund special-teams performance: 0 for 5 on the power play with three shots, and 1 for 2 on the penalty kill. The Bruins’ PP is now 0 for 15 in its last three games, after potting one goal in each of its previous 14 games (a franchise record).
Fleury, who stopped 34 shots, departed the Vegas net with 1:39 left, returned after a timeout, and left again at 1:14. Mark Stone slapped Krejci’s empty-net bid out of the air, but the Bruins (29-10-12) had enough.
Other observations from Causeway Street:
■ Looking every bit a team that needed some Vitamin D and an escape from hockey, the Bruins trailed the Golden Knights, 2-1, in a sloppy 40 minutes. They went a disastrous 0 for 5 on the power play, firing 10 shots and landing three on net.
■ The visitors scored on their first shot of the game, 1:24 in. Stone stuck a backhander between the short-side post and Halak’s blocker, for his 18th of the year. It was a softie, to be sure, but Stone had Zdeno Chara wiping windshields as he beat him to the outside. Halak saved 14 of his first 16, through 40 minutes. He was beaten by a power-play slapper from rookie Nicolas Hague at 10:59 of the second.
■ The Bruins had two power plays in the minutes after Stone’s opening salvo — including one that began 15 seconds after — but managed one shot. Vegas had as many hits (four) as Boston had shot attempts.
■ They had life when the kid, 22-year-old Jeremy Lauzon, scored from long range. His second NHL goal in 18 games tied it at 1, at 11:40 of the first. He has now cashed in twice against Vegas. His first goal, Nov. 11 of last season, was a long rebound into an empty net.
This was a more precise strike: a top-shelf half-slapper from 60 feet, Lauzon firing through the dual screen of Brayden McNabb and Danton Heinen. He earned the chance after Fleury made a poor attempt to play the puck, leaving it for Karson Kuhlman in the corner.
Slick work by Krejci, who dug the puck from a Kuhlman-Alex Tuch wall battle, waited for winger William Carrier to check him, and fed a newly open Lauzon at the point. Krejci is the king of subtlety.
■ That sequence aside, Fleury was strong in the first 40, stopping 22 of 23 shots. His best was a pad denial of DeBrusk on the breakaway with 1:04 left in the first. There were many more chances the Bruins fumbled away.
■ The second power play featured Anders Bjork for perhaps the first time all season. Bjork, whose speed has been an asset on the penalty kill, wired a snapshot from the circle high over the net on his best chance. DeBrusk, in his net-front spot on the first, missed an open-net stuff-in from a sharp angle.
■ The Bruins had their fourth PP at 4:07 of the second, but failed to land a shot on net. They fell to 0-4 on the power play, with one SOG and seven attempts. Coming out of the busted PP, David Pastrnak whiffed on a rebound with Fleury nowhere near him. He knew it, too, looking at the rafters. Krejci later passed on a golden chance from the slot.
■ The Bruins down, 2-1, after the Hague goal, they put Krejci on the first power-play unit after Chandler Stephenson boarded Charlie McAvoy at 15:04 of the second. They set up a Pastrnak bomb from the circle, but it sailed high. The Bruins, again, fired blanks.
McAvoy, who was concussed some 13 months ago, smacked the top of his helmet against the boards. Slow to get up, he was doubled over as he glided to the bench. He returned at the end of the power play, which again, failed.
■ With less than nine minutes remaining, defenseman Matt Grzelcyk left favoring his left arm after a collision with Vegas forward Cody Eakin. He returned to the bench with 4:29 to go.