The forward, who had been mired in a 11-game goal scoring drought, thought he had the monkey off his back with about 13 minutes left in the game. He appeared to have given the Bruins a 3-2 lead over Toronto, but the goal was called back due to offsides, and the B’s had to go back to the drawing board.
So that, Marchand did, coming up with another game-winner — for real this time — with 47 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It felt pretty good — I’m not going to lie,” Marchand said following the 3-2 victory over the Leafs at TD Garden. “It’s been a little while, and it was frustrating to have that one called back, especially when we thought we were going to have the lead with 10 minutes left. I thought we played really well after that, and it was great that we were able to get the win.”
The Bruins’ task was not easy on Saturday night. They were playing in the second leg of a back-to-back that began with a 4-1 win at Buffalo on Friday night. It was their sixth game in nine days, and their first at home since returning from a five-game road trip. It was another game in which they registered chance after prime scoring chance — this time, against Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier — but through two periods, they had only managed to put two of those chances in the net.
In the third, however, the Bruins found their resolve.
“I think that’s what we kind of lacked the last few games that we lost,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “I think [it’s] because we got back on our heels, and we didn’t make plays, and we got scared of making mistakes, and when you do that, you’re thinking, actually. You’re not trusting your instincts.
“So I think we got back to kind of being on our toes for the whole game, and it showed. It was a tough game — a tough game to win — but still, we found a way.”
Third-period success hasn’t been a given for the Bruins over the course of the last couple of weeks. Rather than surge in the final 20 minutes, they have tended to slump, particularly in the middle three games of their five-game road trip.
In the last two games, however, the Bruins have made a point of correcting that. Starting on Friday night in Buffalo, they made a point of ensuring there was no let-up, especially in the third. Friday’s win was a testament to that resolve, that commitment to a full 60-minute effort.
So, too, was Saturday’s.
“Obviously, we had to work extra hard to get [the win], and we missed so many opportunities, and their goaltender made some great saves,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “Again, we didn’t seem to be getting any breaks at all during the whole game. So I thought it was important for us to stay composed, and focused, and everything else, and control what we could. That’s what we did, and you hope that the guys realize how important that is, and what the end result turns out to be after that.”
Bergeron made sure the Bruins got off to a fast start against Toronto, putting them up 1-0 just 45 seconds into the game with his first of two goals.
But the Leafs had no intention of going down easy. Less than four minutes later, they tied the game at 1, as Leo Komarov put his own rebound past Tuukka Rask.
At the beginning of the second, Bergeron struck early once again — this time, 39 seconds into the frame — camping out in the slot and deflecting a Zdeno Chara bid from the left circle past Bernier.
“[It] definitely gives you some energy as a line,” Bergeron said. “As a team, I think when you score early and get the lead, it gives you the momentum that you want.”
With just under three minutes remaining in the second, however, Shawn Matthias’ wrister evened the score once again. Thus began the test of Boston’s resolve.
“We battled through some penalties, and that disallowed goal there in the third, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Rask said. “You have to stick with it because I thought we were the better team today — scoring chances and shots-wise — and we were moving the puck well in the offensive zone, creating chances, and finally, we got rewarded. And it feels good to win that.”
The Bruins thought they had the game-winner earlier in the third. That goal was taken away. But the Bruins didn’t get discouraged. Quite the opposite, actually.
“To be honest, I don’t think guys were really down about that,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who came up with a monster save in the final minute of regulation that immediately preceded Marchand’s goal. “It was more, ‘Alright, let’s go get one now,’ and the next-shift-up mentality, and I think that’s important for a hockey team to have.
“You can’t really control things that happen throughout the course of the game. You’ve got to move onto the next shift.”
Many times in the last handful of games, the Bruins have created abundant opportunities for themselves. On Saturday, they had 45 against Bernier. They hit the post a number of times, missed some open nets, couldn’t convert from point-blank range.
But they got the three goals they needed to get two points. That was the only equation that mattered.
“You just try to stick with it,” Rask said. “It’s not the first time we’ve created a lot of chances and just couldn’t capitalize on that. But I think when you look at the game we played in Buffalo, and how we stuck with it even in the third period and just played on our toes, we really wanted to do that today, and it’s been paying off for us. So that’s good. Great effort in the third.”
With the standings as tight as they are, the Bruins knew they couldn’t afford to let anyone — never mind a divisional opponent — sneak out of their home arena with a point. They wanted to close the deal in regulation, and they needed to.
So they dug down, and they fought, and they did.
“It’s nice to be able to win games in regulation and not let teams climb up [from] below you,” Marchand said. “So I think we have to be happy with that, and happy with knowing that we played a full 60 minutes.
“We played great all the way through, and it showed there at the end.”