BOSTON – Coming off their worst margin of defeat since March of 2008, the Boston Bruins spent the two days after their 6-0 loss in Buffalo on Wednesday concentrating on work ethic in practice.
Their on-ice session Thursday featured a host of one-on-one battle drills, and their Friday time on the ice was mostly about working together as five-man units. Both days the pace was high.
Although it took some late-game heroics Saturday, all the practicing paid off with a 4-3 win over Nashville at TD Garden.
Milan Lucic scored the game-tying goal during a 6-on-4 with 1:07 remaining in regulation, and Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron scored the only goals against Pekka Rinne in the shootout to earn the Bruins their second win in their last three outings.
The Bruins’ effort nearly went to waste. They severely outshot Nashville all day (finishing ahead 41-22) but trailed 3-2 after Mike Fisher put the Predators up with a goal at 16:28 of the third period. Boston managed to not get frustrated by their inability to solve Rinne most of the game.
"I think that’s what we told our players before the game, that it would be a shame if we wasted all that good effort in the last two days and not come out with the same thing this afternoon," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said "I liked our game ... the game was a good one from our end. I thought our work ethic, our commitment, maybe for I’d say, maybe for four or five minutes in the second period, near the end, they kind of seemed to pick up the momentum and take it away from us a little bit, but other than that, I thought we played a real solid 60-minute game."
Lucic was one of the Bruins’ prime performers during all 65 minutes, as he drew the penalty that led to the power play before the game-tying goal. He finished the night with seven shots on goal in 18:21 of ice time. After the victory, Lucic was willing to share credit with his teammates.
"Yeah it’s, you know, not just myself, I think the whole team – we have a lot of pride. We don’t like losing, even if it’s 1-0 never mind 6-0," said Lucic, who became the first NHL player this season to reach 20 goals and 100 penalty minutes. "You never want to get down on yourself and start feeling sorry for ourselves and I think that’s when the pride kicks in. it’s up to different guys at different times to step up and play big at key moments."
Lucic made two key plays to help the Bruins earn their first standings point of the day. After intercepting a Nashville clearing pass at the blue line, he drew a tripping call on Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn. It was the second straight game Nashville lost a game 4-3 on the road after taking a late penalty.
"Last game it put us [down] 4-2 [in Ottawa Thursday]. Instead of being a puck, we’re two pucks away," said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz, whose team is now 1-3-1 in its last five. "Lo and behold, we get a late goal … and maybe we get a point there. If we just play 5-on-5 maybe we can get another two points, and sort of steal the game by winning a 30-minute hockey game on the back end."
The Predators weren’t able to hang on for the second point. Lucic won a race to a loose puck after Rich Peverley’s shot went wide and off the end wall. Boston goaltender Tim Thomas (19 saves) had just made it to the bench for the extra attacker when Lucic roofed a back-hand shot over Rinne (38 saves).
Boston and Nashville had engaged in a back-and-forth affair all day. Patrice Bergeron scored a shorthanded goal with four minutes left in the first period before Nashville answered with a power-play goal 7:32 into the second.
The Bruins regained the lead on a Daniel Paille goal 2:55 into the third. But the Preds responded with a Patric Hornqvist score and then Fisher’s clutch goal after he recovered his own deflected pass at the side of the slot and beat Thomas with a backhand shot.
"We came out slow in the second period, we were playing like a minor hockey team," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter said. "The second half of the second period we started to play a little bit better, and we were fortunate, very fortunate to get one point today."
In the shootout, Bergeron and Seguin scored as Boston’s second and third shooters. Thomas thwarted Kostitsyn and Martin Erat to earn Boston its sixth shootout win in seven tries this season.
This victory, in light of Boston’s recent struggles however, might’ve been their most important shootout win.
"It would’ve been frustrating if we had lost," Boston forward Brad Marchand said. "We had a great game. When you play that way, you expect to win and you deserve to win. It would’ve been a little bit upsetting if we didn’t, but we did. So it feels good."