BOSTON - The Bruins had played 23 games entering Thursday night's tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes. Twelve of those contests resulted in victories.
The one constant in each win was Tuukka Rask.
Boston had yet to win a game without their ace between the pipes. And - with Anton Khudobin in goal - it seemed likely that the trend would continue.
But after struggling to create anything offensively for 59 ½ minutes, the Bruins finally broke through to tie the game on Torey Krug's shot from the point with 31.5 seconds remaining to send things to overtime. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak then scored in the shootout to lift Boston to an unlikely 2-1 victory over Carolina.
Video: CAR@BOS: Pastrnak dekes Ward, helps lift Bruins in SO
But after the game, no one in the Bruins dressing room wanted to focus much on Krug's last-minute goal or Pastrnak's filthy dangle in the shootout. Instead, they wanted to heap praise on the performance of their goaltender.
Khudobin, who got the nod in place of Rask, was immense while collecting 29 saves en route to his first victory of the season - and the first win this season for any netminder not named Tuukka Rask.
"He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, the way he played," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "The way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track and tonight he showed that he was ready to play.
"He made some big plays for us…solid in the shootout. You couldn't ask more from him and there's no doubt that there was a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we have two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us."
It was only Khudobin's second start since returning from an upper-body injury that kept him sidelined for nearly a month. He made his return against Calgary last Friday, during which he allowed two goals in a 2-1 loss.
Khudobin (1-3-0, 2.75 goals against average) commented after that game that he felt strong, but would not be happy until he found the "magic W."
That magic win finally came Thursday night.
"It always feels awesome," said Khudobin, who was named the game's No. 1 star. "Whenever you get the W, it's always - nothing can be better."
Khudobin made a number of vital stops, including three Jeff Skinner breakaway attempts. The first came during a 3-on-0 opportunity midway through the second that developed after Teuvo Teravainen exited the box - though Noah Hanifin did give Carolina a 1-0 lead later on the same shift.
Video: CAR@BOS: Khudobin turns away Skinner on a breakaway
The second came in the final seconds of overtime, before Skinner was denied a third time in the third round of the shootout to clinch the victory for the Bruins.
"We definitely gave them some life and some chances, some odd-man rushes, a couple breakaways, and he saved our behinds a few times," said Krug, who tied the game with his second of the season at 19:28 of the third.
"When he was seeing the puck like he was tonight, he's a hard goalie to beat and he earned that win for us."
Krug's Offensive Explosion
Krug's goal - his second of the season - was his fifth point in the last three games. He had produced two assists in each of his last two games.
But the 25-year-old blue liner said he was not focusing on anything in particular to lift his offensive game. Instead, Krug explained, his offense is coming from a commitment to playing strong defense with Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles sidelined by injuries.
"I think just pucks are going in, as silly as that sounds," said Krug, who played a team high 28:07 and landed six shots on goal. "I feel like, from an individual standpoint, I've been focusing on hitting the net for a while and trying to make some plays and all of a sudden the puck is going in - whether that's funky bounces or just guys taking advantage of chances I can create - it's good.
"I've been focusing on defense the past few games and I've been given some advice and focusing on the defense and all of a sudden it's like the offensive opportunities are just appearing out of nowhere, so that's kind of been my thought process."
Video: CAR@BOS: Krug scores game-tying goal in final minute
On the goal - which occurred with the net empty - David Pastrnak collected David Krejci's wayward shot along the boards and got the puck to Krug, who launched a one-timer from the point. David Backes provided a stellar screen in front.
"Getting a solid entry, I guess that's the first part of it," said Krug, who now has 11 points in 24 games. "Sometimes teams try and get too cute and make a play off the rush when you've just got to get in the zone and gain possession and get to our positions.
"Pasta is a threat right now, so teams are focusing on him and I had a clear shooting lane to the net and guys like Backs get rewarded when they take the goalie's eyes away and I can get it through there. So, that was a big goal for us."
Sticking With It
Once again, the Bruins struggled to find the back of the net. Boston landed 35 shots on Cam Ward Thursday night, but lacked a significant number of scoring opportunities.
The Bruins, however, did not get frustrated and fired 12 shots on Ward in the third period alone, before finally breaking through.
"It's just, elation. When you work your butts off, you work for sixty minutes and have a few good chances - to see that puck rolling into the net, that's what it's all about," said Backes. "We should celebrate that goal as hard as any other that we score because it's a six-man unit that had to get it in there.
"We're working it around, winning battles, and a blast, and then a scrum in front. Those are the ugly goals we need to have. Again, we'll take them any way we can get them. The ugly ones count just like the pretty ones."
Video: Julien speaks after a 2-1 win vs. CAR