The Black & Gold picked up their fifth straight win on Friday afternoon at TD Garden with a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers, a team who ranked third in the League entering the game and went without a single loss from mid-October through mid-November.
Twice, the Bruins found themselves trailing by a goal, and twice, they found a way to tie it up.
“This is a hard-working team right now,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. “I think that attitude of this group is they want to do well — whether they do it every night, their intentions are good. When they go out there and compete like they did tonight, it’s a lot of fun to coach these guys.”
Ryan Spooner’s goal on the man advantage knotted the game at 3-3 with 3:46 to go in the third and David Krejci drove in the winner with just 1:43 left to put Boston on top, 4-3.
“We’ve won five in a row, and especially the [wins] in Detroit and Toronto maybe we didn’t deserve to win, but we got the two points and we find a way to win hockey games now,” said Krejci, whose three game-winning goals this season lead the team.
“There’s still some areas we’ve got to improve, but it was a good win,” Krejci added. “We were down a couple times and never quit, so it was a big win for our team.”
“We really believe in each other here and it’s starting to show.”
The trend of being able to gut out two points — like with the 4-3 shootout win in Toronto and 3-2 overtime win in Detroit — took a different turn on Friday, though.
The Bruins played the Rangers hard. They put together a better effort than their previous two games. But they still had to find the mental toughness to not get frustrated and to push through low points in the game.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the third period, Brad Marchand was called for goalie interference. Replays on the Garden HDX video board sent the crowd into a fit of boos and set off forceful arguments from Julien on the bench and Marchand in the box to the referees.
The Bruins still ended up on the penalty kill, at 7:59 into the period. The Rangers capitalized, with a drive glancing off J.T. Miller, off Tuukka Rask’s back and over the goal line for the go-ahead that put them up 3-2.
“That was very frustrating,” said Marchand. “I mean, a penalty like that or a call like that, and they score on it, it was tough, especially if we would have ended up losing like that.”
The Bruins didn’t let the frustration sink into their game, though.
“Kind of a tough call and if the game would have ended like that, it would have really been a tough one to swallow,” said Rask, who saved 24 of 27 shots. “But those things happen and the good thing is that we never got frustrated, we just kept pushing, pushing and we wanted to get that goal to tie it and then after that we were all over them. So it was a really good thing to see, that we didn’t let anything bother us.”
“The guys did a great job sticking with it and the power play did a great job there, getting that one back,” said Marchand. “So it was good that we won and we can move on.”
Boston got a timely power play with 5:06 left in the third when Jesper Fast went to the box for a holding penalty on Colin Miller.
Spooner broke a stalemate for his unit and netted his fifth power play goal of the season to tie the game at 3-3. Torey Krug fired a shot from the left point that made its way through traffic with Loui Eriksson screening in front and Patrice Bergeron crashing. Eriksson sent a slick touch pass to Spooner making a B line for the net.
“I think on the first and the second power play, there was a couple chances in front that kind of went to the opposite side — we’ve been talking about that, about me getting to the net, a little bit more,” said Spooner. “I tried it and it paid off.”
“Ryan did a great job there when the shot came from the other side to get in there,” said Julien. “There’s times where he’s stayed a little wider on the half-wall and when those rebounds come out he’s not there for them. Tonight he went in there and got engaged in that area where the stuck came on his stick and he was able to give us that big goal.”
There was another timely power play goal for Boston that came earlier in the game, when Brett Connolly snapped in the equalizer to make it 2-2 at 9:34 into the second period.
It marked his first goal in 12 games and his second power play tally of the season. Miller set him up after faking a shot. It was the Bruins’ first power play goal in four games.
“Took a little while, but you’ve just got to try to shoot the puck when you can,” said Connolly. “It was obviously a big goal and a big win for our group here. Going down a goal, it was tough, but we stuck with it and we had a couple guys make some good plays at the right time, so it was a good game.”
The Bruins had fallen down 2-1 at 5:15 into the second when Rick Nash found himself with more than enough time and space in front to get past Rask. The Rangers had tied the game at 1-1 just three minutes earlier.
It wasn’t the way Boston wanted to start the middle frame, given their 1-0 lead off Patrice Bergeron’s eighth goal of the season in the first. The trend of their second period struggles continued. They weren’t getting pucks in deep and making good line changes.
But they stuck with it.
About eight minutes into the period, Matt Beleskey finished a hard hit on Derek Stepan along the boards, with Dylan McIlrath immediately challenging him to drop the gloves. McIlrath was given the extra two minutes for instigating and the Bruins found themselves on the power play. Connolly converted for the important tying goal.
It wasn’t easy getting past Lundqvist all afternoon. Rask also turned in a solid performance, making timely stops.
“I think we knew it was going to be a tough game — I thought we came to play this afternoon,” said Julien. “Momentum switched around, but we just stuck with it. Of course when you go down 3-2, the way we battled back to win certainly makes it a character win.”
The Bruins now head back out on the road for a three game road trip through Western Canada, looking to bring the same hard-working nature to their game.
“Obviously the word giving up is non-existent in this locker room,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “We know that any time are in a game, we have a chance to come back or win the game; we just keep pushing forward and we have to overcome some challenges that we are having.”
“You’re not always going to feel great every night, but you’ve just got to dig deep and play hard and leave it out there and good things will happen.”
After winning five in a row, that’s the sort of mindset that’s becoming more engrained into this team.
“Just to see [this group] grow is fun for a coach,” said Julien. “As long you’re heading in the right direction.”