They knew they would have to do it without the help of Brad Marchand, who stayed back in Boston with an undisclosed ailment, and without David Krejci, who made the trip but was unable to play on Friday due to an undisclosed situation.
So when they found themselves down by two goals heading into the third period of Friday’s game, they just bore down and did what they needed to do with the personnel they had.
The Bruins overcame a 2-0 first period deficit, scoring three third-period goals and eventually triumphing over the Blue Jackets in the seventh round of a scoreless shootout, thanks to the craftiness of Alex Khokhlachev, playing in his second career NHL game in Krejci’s place.
“A good comeback win,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “As you can see, we’ve got some young guys we’ve got to trust at times. Sometimes it works; sometimes it ends up costing you. But we’re battling here, and with three games in four nights, [it’s] not easy to cut your bench down, so we’re just trying to make everything work out here.”
Julien did not divulge the reason for Krejci’s absence but stressed the importance of managing the situation early on in the season, while the team has the luxury to do so.
“This morning, later in the morning, Krech didn’t feel comfortable," Julien said. “Not going to get into all the details, but it’s one of those things where one day he’s feeling 100 percent, and the next day, he’s not so much. So we got to manage that the best way we can. It’s not about giving him more rest, necessarily; it’s just an issue here where right now, as we speak, it’s a little bit dicey, and as you know, we’re not machines — we’re humans.
“So every once in a while, you get a day where you’re feeling 100 percent; next day not so much. Early in the season, we’ve got to manage that properly, here, and we know at some point, [he’s] going to be 100 percent.”
In the end, though, it was the player who stepped in for Krejci who helped to seal the win for the B’s.
Boston did not get off to the start it wanted to on Friday night. Coming off two strong performances against the Devils and the Blues at home, in which they allowed just a single goal, the Bruins wanted to keep playing the same type of physical, relentless, punishing game they have been able to play in spurts throughout this season.
But the Blue Jackets dictated the pace early on Friday, and they were rewarded for it. Ryan Johansen put Columbus on the board about 10 minutes into the game when, after blocking a Kevan Miller shot at the defensive blue line, he pushed the puck to the other end and beat Niklas Svedberg with a wrister.
One minute and 38 seconds later, Nick Foligno doubled the lead when, screening in front of the net, he deflected Jordan Leopold’s drive from the left point past Svedberg.
The Bruins got their chances throughout the first two periods. They had a 4-on-1, led by Simon Gagne, that resulted in a Sergei Bobrovsky stop. They won puck battles behind the net but were unable to convert on their ensuing chances.
Until the third period. That is when the B’s started getting some breaks.
It all started with a Dennis Seidenberg heave from outside the offensive blue line that somehow trickled through Bobrovsky’s pads. That pulled the Bruins within a goal just 1:28 into the third period. At the midway point of the frame, Matt Fraser — camping out in front of the net — tipped in Matt Bartkowski’s shot from the right point.
One minute and 59 seconds later, the Bruins enjoyed their first lead of the game after Daniel Paille pounced on a loose puck in front of the net and put it past Bobrovsky for his first goal of the 2014-15 season.
“Even in the second period, we started getting some O-zone time where we were getting pucks to the point, but nothing was coming out of it,” Julien said. “We need to see guys right in front of that crease. We need a little bit more jam in our game around the net, and we finally started getting it in the third.”
Boston’s lead, though, was short-lived. Just over a minute after Paille’s goal, Jack Johnson knotted the score at 3 to send the game into overtime, and after another scoreless five minutes, it took seven rounds of the shootout — and a Khokhlachev shot that beat Bobrovsky five-hole — to seal the win.
After the puck found the back of the net, Khokhlachev — who played in his first career NHL game last April, on the final day of the 2013-14 regular season — was mobbed by his elated, beaming teammates.
“I tried not to think about anything because when you start thinking, you get nervous, and that won’t be good, you know?” Khokhlachev said with a smile. “So I tried just [not to] think about anything and just go and score.
“It’s amazing — to score that goal in the shootout, and just a good feeling to win the game. Great feeling.”
Svedberg came up huge for the Bruins in the third period — particularly during a penalty kill right after the Bruins had taken a 2-1 lead, when he stopped Foligno to hold the Blue Jackets at bay — and in overtime and the shootout. As the game progressed, the Bruins got stronger as a team, and he got stronger between the pipes, unwilling to let the early goals define his performance.
Just like he did when the Bruins needed extra time to triumph at Buffalo on Oct. 30, after spotting the Sabres an early lead, Svedberg held strong once again and gave his team a chance to win.
“Obviously, it’s tough — the two goals against early on — but it happened before,” Svedberg said.
“Obviously, it’s tough. You got to try to just forget about it and move on to the next puck, and as the game moves on, you get to make some saves, and you kind of work your way back into the game.”
Julien couldn’t have asked for anything more from his backup goalie, who held off the Blue Jackets through seven rounds of the shootout until Khokhlachev was able to net the game-winner.
“The bottom line is, he got better as the game went on,” Julien said. “He stood tall, and for him to not give up a goal on at least seven chances, he did an outstanding job. He stood tall and gave us a chance to win.”
Bartkowski finished the night with two assists and now has three helpers in his last two games.
The last time the Bruins needed extra time to finish off a win, it was Marchand who allowed them to get the job done. This time, with some of its biggest offensive weapons out of commission, Boston had no choice but to get its offense from other sources — young, inexperienced or unexpected as those sources may have been.
“It’s really great — obviously showed a lot of character from our team,” Svedberg said. “Those kinds of wins are extra fun to win, and just a great feeling right now.
“Same time, we’ve got to move on — we have a game tomorrow. But enjoy this one, and tomorrow, move on.”