The Boston Bruins blew a two-goal lead in the third period for the second time in four games.But unlike their ‘Mile High collapse’against the Colorado Avalanche a week ago Wednesday, they kept the Seattle Kraken at bay, escaping with a 3-2 win following David Pastrnak’s second power-play goal of the night.
In certain moments, the Bruins responded well, like on Yanni Gourde’s hit from behind on Urho Vaakaninen early in the second period.
At times, Bruce Cassidy’s squad played down to their competition, as highlighted by their rather pedestrian pace to start the third period. The Kraken took advantage with Joonas Donskoi scoring his first of the season 42 seconds into the final stanza on a broken play and Mason Appleton notching his fourth of the campaign with his point shot deflecting off Charlie McAvoy at 7:30.
But Pastrnak and company re-established their rhythm following a timeout from Cassidy. The Bruins went back to their formula from the middle 20 with Pastrnak and Taylor Hall pacing the B’s to a 2-0 lead.
A strong, aggressive shift in the attacking end from the third line of Charlie Coyle,Jake DeBruskand Oskar Steen set the Bruins up with a late power play. Pastrnak scored in the ensuing moments to put his team ahead for good.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins head into the All-Star break with a 26-14-3 mark.
Gourde drew Boston’s attention after boarding Vaakanainen.
These aren’t the big bad Bruins of years past. With the league’s emphasis on skill over grit, a return to old-time hockey won’t be in the works anytime soon.
Still, the Bruins failed to answer the bell whenever opponents took a run at one of their own. But this time, they came together for the injured Vaakanainen following Gourde’s hit from behind.
After huddling, the officials assessed Gourde a five-minute major for boarding before downgrading the infraction to a two-minute minor. Clearly peeved by Gourde and the officials’ decision, the Bruins took matters into their own hands, with Lazar and Stephen Fogarty agitating the Seattle forward in his first shift out of the penalty box.
“I didn’t like the hit at all,” Cassidy said of the Gourde hit. “For [the refs] not to make a call on it was unbelievable to me…I don’t understand the standard tonight for that not to be called immediately even to get a five, never mind to look at it just to get two. I didn’t like the hit, didn’t like the call, but you move on and you play.”
A concussion responder removed Vaakananien from the game following the hit. The Bruins confirmed his exit in the third period with an upper-body injury.
With Vaakananinen out, the Bruins needed a little help on the scoreboard — and a near-blown two-goal lead — to make their response to Gourde worthwhile.
The Hall-Pastrnak connection might be a keeper.
Cassidy broke up the potent top trioof Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, andPatrice Bergeronfollowing the COVID-19 break. Even with their potential upgrades coming at the trade deadline, the Bruins may want to keep the Pastrnak-Hall connection intact.
Hall’s two-way skillset and Pastrnak’s dynamic playmaking traits mesh cohesively with one another. The short-term stopgaps centering them, primarily Erik Haula, complemented the duo without looking out of place.
Tomas Nosek filled in for Haula (COVID-19 protocol) Tuesday. Nosek set up Hall indirectly after the 2010 top overall pick capitalized on a Seattle turnover in the slot late in the second period for his 10th goal of the season.
Pastrnak blasted home a pair of power-play markers with Hall serving as the net-front guy on the top unit. Together they’ve thrived in every situation, be it at 5-on-5 with a complementary center or alongside elite skilled players like Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy on the man advantage.
“We’re starting to know each other way better after a little while,” Pastrnak said of his chemistry with Hall. “He’s unbelievable finding me [in space]. But he’s finding me so much where sometimes I tell him he should shoot …he’s looking for me, and I look for him, to be honest.”
Pastrnak and Hall became difference-makers again since the COVID break. The former notched 21 points (14 goals, 7 assists) since the calendar turned to 2022, while the latter tallied 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) during that 17-game stretch.
As good as they’ve been, Hall and Pastrnak are only getting started. The Bruins need the duo to thrive if they have any chance of a deep playoff run. And Hall himself keeps setting lofty expectations, especially after being on the ice for both of Seattle’s third-period tallies.
“Last game I’m on for two goals against, and tonight I’m on for two goals against. Those are the things I want to get rid of in my game, and really be a reliable two-way guy for the rest of the year,” Hall said. “That’s why I signed here. I believe I have another level to get to to be a great player. And hopefully, after the break, I can continue that.”
Bruins need to simplify their game upon their return.
Sometimes a ‘B’ or ‘C’ outing is good enough to salvage two points. The Bruins had more of their ‘C’ game than ‘B’ or ‘A’ against the Kraken, but they eeked out a needed win before their week off.
They needed a timeout to get back on track after Appleton’s tying marker. But they rallied after playing down to their competition for the first half of the final frame.
It wasn’t a perfect outing by any means. But a win is a win. The Bruins can take a breather before focusing on needed improvements, like the lapses in judgment over the last few games, heading into a pivotal stretch of their season.
“I think everyone could see that we weren’t playing our best tonight,” Hall said. “When nights are going like that, it’s important to play simple and get pucks out when the time is right.”
The Bruins thrived on simple hockey coming out of the COVID-19 break. The hiatus allowed them to recover physically — be it through illness or nagging injuries — and mentally. They put that to good use by executing cleaner breakouts in transition, staying assertive in front of the net and winning puck possession battles along the boards.
Hall, Pastrnak and company got away from those good habits after dropping three of four heading into Tuesday. They struggled to establish consistency against the Kraken after returning home for their pre All-Star slate finale. But they got to bank the two points before entering another lengthy physical and mental break.
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