EDMONTON, Alberta — Though the scrappy Oilers nipped at their heels for 60 minutes, the Bruins left here Wednesday with two points, and their top dog status intact.
David Pastrnak’s breakaway finish in overtime gave them a 2-1 win, their fourth in a row and 10th in their last 11 games. The Bruins (38-11-12) remain atop the NHL standings, pushing their edge on the Lightning to three points.
Collecting a rainbow feed from David Krejci — he read Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse’s poor pinch, and sent Pasta in free — Pastrnak opened netminder Mike Smith’s pads and slipped home the winner at 1:14 of OT.
“Krech won a battle and I was gone,” said Pastrnak, who keeps adding to his career-high goal total (43). “As soon as Torey [Krug] poked it to Krech in the corner and he had a split-second, that’s all he needs.”
The Bruins emerged from this tight-checking, chippy game with a new-and-improved 5-12 record in overtime. Mercifully, their 0-7 shootout record remains in mothballs.
Pastrnak’s goal, which pulled him into a tie with Auston Matthews for the league lead, absolved the visitors from an 0-for-7 performance on the power play. In a battle of top-two special teams — both PPs and PKs entered Wednesday ranked No. 2 or better — the Oilers were the only team to strike. The Bruins killed 5 of 6 penalties, with help from a bouncing puck or a stick in the lane. Both kills were aggressive enough to snuff out 13 combined penalties.
“Glad to win a hockey game when you don’t need your power play to score,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Could have made life easier for us.”
The Bruins’ defensive game remains sound. Now with 14 goals against in a 10-1-0 run, they allowed the Oilers two shots in the first period before Edmonton cobbled together a 29-shot evening. Tuukka Rask (28 saves) improved his league-best save percentage to .932, and his record to 23-5-6, with a 2.04 goals-against average. He is very much in the Vezina Trophy conversation.
The Bruins had 11 shots on the power play, but some were forced. Charlie Coyle had a chance that hit netminder Mike Smith in the head and stayed out. Brad Marchand couldn’t finish at the side of the crease.
“We stuck with it,” Pastrnak said. “Penalty kill and Tuuks won this game.”
Cassidy made an adjustment, swapping out Jake DeBrusk (net front) for Brad Marchand, and using Krejci in Marchand’s old half-wall spot. No dice.
Boston was up, 1-0, on Patrice Bergeron’s 27th goal of the year at 8:28 of the first. He slid one past a prone Smith after taking a centering feed from Marchand and deking with a backhand-forehand move.
It was more world-class playmaking from Marchand, who recorded his 52nd assist of the year — and 75th point — by saucering a feed from the wall to his cruising linemate. He’s third in the league in helpers, many of them directly setting up a goal. At even strength, 18 of his 22 assists have been first assists.
“We’ve been playing together for so long, you just need to get open,” Bergeron said. “We know the tendencies we like to do on the ice. I kind of know what are the areas he wants me to be [in], and try to get there. He finds us right now. It’s been pretty much all year. Right now, he’s really making a lot of great plays.”
They were unable to build on it before Edmonton’s Sam Gagner tipped an Ethan Bear power-play point shot in the high slot, at 3:42 of the third.
“We were battling hard,” Rask said. “Whatever rebounds were there, the guys cleared them.”
After regulation, the home crowd cheered the effort from Edmonton (32-21-7), which had won three of four without superstar Connor McDavid (quad injury), with wins over the playoff-contending Panthers and Hurricanes. They were also missing two key defensemen (minute-muncher Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell) and forwards Zack Kassian (suspended), James Neal and Joakim Nygard. Their ability and effort on the PK kept them in this one.
They entered the night tied with the Bruins for second in success rate (both 84.2 percent coming in). The Oilers didn’t help themselves on the PP, taking two penalties while up a man. They couldn’t make good when Bergeron, arguably Boston’s top PK forward, hooked defenseman Ethan Bear in the second. They had 41 seconds left in the power play when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins washed it out by grabbing Coyle’s stick.
So it’s off to Calgary to start a back-to-back Friday (Vancouver on Saturday). Western Canada is typically a grind.