Those in red were stunned on the ice and on the bench.
Those in Black & Gold fled on to the ice and sandwiched a smiling Vatrano between themselves and the glass.
“It was kind of a blur,” Vatrano smiled postgame from the visiting team locker room. “It was an awesome feeling. I just remember the puck hit my stick and everyone coming off the bench, so it was a great play by both Beleskey and Colin Miller.”
Matt Beleskey had come out with the puck following a battle along the boards during the 3-on-3 overtime, feeding Miller inside the blueline, who then set up Vatrano streaking towards the net. Vatrano was glad to get the shift during extra time.
“Whoever [Coach] puts out there, that’s what he thinks is the best option for us to get a win,” said Vatrano. “So even if it wasn’t me, if it was someone else, I’d be rooting for them, so just be ready when your number’s called.”
By squeezing out the second point, the Bruins jumped Detroit in the standings to take over third place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. It put them into that all-important playoff spot by Thanksgiving.
The way the game was going, though, the visitors could have had a not-so-jovial flight back to Boston.
Detroit controlled most of the play. Aside from Vatrano notching his first of two goals on the night to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the first, the bulk of the possession belonged to the home team.
Boston was outshot 13-9 in the first and 11-4 in the second. There was a stretch during the second period when they didn’t have a shot on goal for nine minutes and 41 seconds.
“You’ve got to give [our players] credit for their perseverance,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “You know, it’s just a matter of sticking with it. After two periods, I was really frustrated just watching our team play.”
Jonas Gustavsson kept the game close. He stopped all 13 Detroit shots in the opening 20 minutes. He was tested all night.
“They came out hard and they put a lot of pucks to the net — and they have a lot of skill on that team so when they get going they’re a tough team,” said Gustavsson, who made 32 saves on 34 shots. “But, you know, what’s important is that we found a way to come back and win the game.”
The Wings came out in the second and tied the game at 1-1, thanks to Pavel Datsyuk roofing in his 300th NHL goal.
Gustavsson didn’t break his stride, though, pulling out stops shortly thereafter on Henrik Zetterberg.
“You just try to be ready for the next shot and try to help the team be in the game and try to settle down and be calm back there, no matter what the situation is,” said Gustavsson, who is now 5-1-0
Detroit took over the 2-1 lead with 5:07 to go in the second after an attempted clear up the boards bounced out to Tomas Tatar, who ripped it in.
“They gave us a lot of trouble,” said Julien. “They played well. Sometimes when a team plays really well and you’re not on top of yours, the scale really tips in the wrong direction, but our young guys come up big for us.”
Vatrano’s goals — the second and third of his NHL career — bookended a strong night for the forward, who was back in the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury.
Miller’s night was not far behind. The first-year defenseman blasted in the game-tying goal to force overtime with 1:44 to go in the third period. Loui Eriksson set Miller up right off the bench with the soft drop pass inside the blueline near the right point.
Miller’s patented slapper (which clocked in as the fastest in the AHL at last year’s All-Star Game) whipped past Petr Mrazek.
“After the second period, I think we were just kind of really frustrated with ourselves so we just tried to forget about that from there and go out and have a really solid third period — and I think we did that,” said Miller.
“It’s nice to see your young guys step up,” said Julien. “And I said that in the dressing room before, ‘Let’s not rely on our top players to always do the job. We need the other guys to step up’ and tonight those young guys did that.”
The positives were there at the end of the night, with Vatrano and Miller both making an impact and Gustavsson continuing to provide strong goaltending between the pipes. That winning feeling demonstrated but the postgame celebration was still reverberating throughout the room, and sure to continue on to the plane home.
But the Bruins weren’t getting too high. For two straight games — a 4-3 shootout win in Toronto and the 3-2 overtime win in Detroit — the Bruins had survived on strong goaltending and their ability to “stick with it.”
“Find a way to win, and you move on,” said Julien. “But moving on doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge what needs to be better.”
“We have to find a way to play better,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “We have to obviously correct the mistakes we are making, because the same thing that happened in the Toronto game happened again.”
“We can’t be playing with fire like that. We’ve got to find a way to be more focused and disciplined and playing in our structure.”
“But, you know, credit to us, we didn’t give up, we worked hard,” Chara said. “We were trying to obviously make the simple play at the end, which worked, so we take the two points.”