BOSTON, MA – The Boston Bruins finished their five-game home stretch at TD Garden on a high note with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night. Chad Johnson got his third start of the season, and stopped 32 of 34 shots faced to earn his second win as a Bruin.
Johnson was making his first start since November 2, when the Bruins fell 3-1 to the Islanders and prompted Head Coach Claude Julien to call it perhaps the worst performance of the season.
His teammates were determined to give him better support this time around.
“We feel like we owe him one and we’re going to try to do everything we can to get him a win tonight,” alternate captain David Krejci had said pregame.
Chad Johnson has become known around the B’s locker room for being supportive, encouraging and patient; a great teammate. He doesn’t rock the boat or try to lobby for more playing time; rather, he knows his role is a supporting one and embraces it.
“It’s definitely a different challenge [not playing consistently], but it’s one that I knew eventually was going to have to happen to get into the league,” Johnson said. “This is the role that I’m in and I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity.”
“You see him every day, he comes out and is going to stay out there after practice and take some extra shots and try and stay sharp and that’s what Chad has done for us,” said Julien. “I think if anything he’s had a great attitude.”
Part of this demeanor demands he focus not on his last game, but on the challenge ahead of him.
“I mean we’re playing well these last couple games,” he said. “Since the Islanders game, we’ve found our rhythm as a team and I expect that same effort tonight.”
That effort came both from himself and in the form of goals from players on three different lines.
The first was off a Chara shot from the point that deflected off the skate of Loui Eriksson, the second a scorching wrister from merlot line veteran Shawn Thornton, and the game-winning overtime goal came unassisted from Milan Lucic, who blocked a puck from Cam Atkinson and raced to the net, beating Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole to end it.
However, before the overtime heroics, there was Chad Johnson. Like his teammate ranked above him on the depth chart has done so many times this season, Johnson made multiple tough and timely saves to keep his team in the game. He looked more comfortable, with more pressure.
During a Columbus power play with about 11:45 to play in the third period and the score knotted at two goals apiece, Fedor Tyutin launched a slap shot from the point through plenty of traffic, eventually trickling through the crease in a dangerous way. However, Johnson was in perfect position so that the puck deflected harmlessly to the corner.
Then, 1:37 into overtime, a pass from Torey Krug exploded off of Dennis Seidenberg’s stick and wound up on the backhand of Nick Foligno (who had scored the tying goal for Columbus in the second period) right on Johnson’s doorstep.
Johnson snagged the quick attempt with a calm and confident swipe of his glove. Milan Lucic then took care of the rest to give Johnson a 2-1-0 record on the season.
Julien was notably happy for Johnson to get a hard-fought win, especially following the team's last outing in front of him.
“I thought he was good. When you look in the third period, they had a couple of good chances especially on the power play; point blank shots and he made some good saves,” he said.
“Little breakdowns where he had to face guys one-on-one and I thought he played really well. So, really pleased for him and I’m sure the players are happy for him as well.”
After the game, teammates felt better about their defensive performance for Johnson. There's plenty to be pleased about when a good teammate gets his moment and seizes it.
“He’s worked so hard for us all year long and we really wanted to have a good game for him tonight, and he played great,” said Brad Marchand. “He made some huge saves in the third and kept us in it; he did a great job today.”
“You know, you want to go to bat for your guys, and for your teammates, and with how hard he’s worked for us this year we wanted to return the favor, and we’re very happy with the win tonight.”
“He’s probably had the toughest job on our team so far obviously with Tuukka [Rask] playing the way that he had and becoming a league goaltender,” said Lucic.
“Having to come in like that and play big for us is huge especially here tonight. You need games like that out of your goaltenders and it was great to see him get rewarded here with the big win.”
Johnson deserved the win, but the soft-spoken netminder was calculated in his postgame interview, not getting too overwhelmed with the personal satisfaction he had earned. Instead, he was focused on the team's result, stressing that the best part of the night, above all, was the two points the Bruins picked up.
“When I saw him [Milan Lucic] go on a breakaway, I put my head down and I was like ‘Oh, please score,’ because these are points we need,” Johnson said. “There’s always teams you think you should get points off of, and we really wanted to get the two points.”
“I get in once every two weeks, and I try and work as hard as I can in practice to make myself ready for these situations. The guys, I think, know that there might be a little bit of rust every now and then, and they battled really hard for me. It was a big two points for us and we were all excited to get the two points.”
---Written by Ethan Hartley for BostonBruins.com