BOSTON – Earlier Thursday afternoon, the Bruins arrived at TD Garden feeling loose, excited, and confident ahead of a crucial meeting with the Red Wings.
Torey Krug was adamant about not shying away from the big moments, but rather embracing the challenge and opportunity that was in front of them.
And when the puck dropped, the Bruins – and Krug – performed just as they expected they would.
Five different Bruins scored, including Krug, who notched the eventual winning goal – his first tally since Dec. 5 – in a 5-2 win over Detroit Thursday night at TD Garden.
“It was huge,” said Krug, who also added two assists. “We’re in a position where we can continue to live and hopefully get some more help and Saturday we have a job to do.”
The win moves the Bruins into a tie with Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division with 93 points, though the Red Wings hold the tiebreaker with one more regulation/overtime victory.
Boston also moved 1 point ahead of Philadelphia for the second wild card spot, after the Flyers overtime loss to Toronto. Philadelphia has a game in hand.
“I think it was one of our, obviously, better efforts in quite awhile,” said coach Claude Julien. “From start to finish, the effort we put on at both ends of the ice – but also through the middle of the ice there – taking their speed away.
“Our guys really did a good job tonight.”
Despite the victory, things are not quite in the Bruins hands. A win on Saturday against Ottawa in the regular season finale would go a long way in securing a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Bruins will also require some help in the form of Red Wings and Flyers losses.
“We’re going to be facing the same situation that we faced tonight,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “We said that before these three games at home that every game is going to have to be approached as a must-win, and that’s how we have to approach the last game against Ottawa.”
Still, the Bruins have plenty of momentum heading into that showdown with the Senators. In addition to performing well offensively, Boston also buckled down on the defensive side, allowing Detroit just 15 shots on goal.
“We were really playing with thick layers,” said Chara. “Everybody was really skating and simplifying the game and really was not trying to do too much, and that’s how we pretty much were playing really effectively in that stretch of time.
“I don’t think we allowed them too many scoring chances.”
The Bruins displayed that much-talked-about urgency right from the jump by grabbing a 2-0 lead just 2:44 into the game. David Pastrnak kicked things off 1:25 in when he collected John-Michael Liles’ cross-ice pass and charged in on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard all alone.
Pastrnak deked to his backhand and jammed it five-hole to give the Bruins a 1-0 advantage. The play was challenged by Detroit to determine if it was offside, but after review it was determined that Pastrnak entered the zone legally.
“It was kind of a set play,” said Pastrnak. “I stayed wide and John got the pass and he banged it off the wall and I just kept skating and got it on my stick right and then I got a breakaway.
“I think I left my other leg off the ice and I felt lucky the second leg was still behind the blue.”
Boston made it 2-0 just 1:19 later. Krug pinched in from the left point and fired a pass across the slot to Brad Marchand, who was waiting at the left post. Marchand quickly ripped it past Howard glove side to double the Bruins’ lead.
“We talked about getting off to a real good start [against] a team that had played last night so we wanted to come out strong and we did,” said Julien.
“Not only that, we managed to get some quick goals here so that made a big difference. Obviously with what we’ve been going through here just kind of gave our guys some real good confidence there and loosened them up a little bit and took off from there.
“There’s no doubt that was certainly one of the keys to the game.”
It was Marchand’s 37th goal of the season, the most by a Bruin since Glen Murray had 44 in 2002-03.
“I thought we played well after that and it’s always easier to play with the lead so it’s always good to get those first couple,” said Marchand, who was honored with NESN’s 7th Player Award before the game.
Krug made it 3-0, 5:02 into the second, when he blasted one past Howard from the left point on the power play.
“Well it was nice,” Krug said of his long-awaited goal. “I mean, more importantly our power play had to come through for us at some point down the stretch and it’s nice to get one there and help our team win and I think it was an important time in the game, too.”
Detroit’s Alexey Marchenko cut into the lead, making it 3-1, just under two minutes later. But that was as close as the Red Wings would get.
Boston opened the third with two more quick strikes to grab a 5-1 lead. Lee Stempniak collected the rebound of another Krug blast and put it past Howard 20 seconds into the frame.
Just 25 seconds later, Eriksson tallied his 30th goal of the season, joining Marchand and Patrice Bergeron to give the Bruins three 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2002-03.
“I believe in this team,” said Bergeron. “I know how good we are, and what we can be when we’re at our best, and everyone’s chipping in. That’s when we have the most success obviously. So, tonight was a perfect example, and we’ve got to carry that forward.”