Brad Marchand, owner of eight goals in his previous eight games, drew a penalty shot with 2:28 remaining in overtime. With the opportunity to send the Bruins home with their second straight win over Buffalo, he picked up the puck at center ice, took it to the net, pump-faked twice and got Sabres goalie Robin Lehner to bite — then roofed it.
“I kind of talked to a guy this summer, and he said something that stuck with me – that the ceiling is what you make it,” Marchand said following Boston’s 2-1 overtime win over Buffalo on Saturday. “If you believe that you can hit a certain point, then that’s what you’re going to hit. If you believe there’s no ceiling, then you can only improve. So that’s what I’ve been trying to go by this year, and hopefully it will continue.”
That credo has certainly been working for Marchand thus far in 2015-16. Saturday’s goal gives him nine in his last nine games, and likely, another surge of confidence heading into what bodes to be the toughest stretch of the season for the Bruins.
“I feel pretty good,” said Marchand, whose 24 goals in 47 games this season already match his total in 77 games last year. “I feel like I’m trying things that I probably shouldn’t at times, and they work out, and that’s sometimes how it goes when things are kind of going your way – whether or not it feels like you can’t do anything right.
“Again, I’ve said this before: It’s about staying even-keeled and trying to prepare the same way every night and knowing that if you play the right way and the right game, then it’s going to benefit you more than not.”
Marchand drew the penalty shot on Rasmus Ristolainen midway through overtime, and as soon as the ref blew the whistle, Marchand’s teammates knew they likely had a win in their hands.
“He could have done whatever – go down and slide on his stomach – it’s going to go in,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “So when you’re hot, you’re hot, and I’m glad he’s on our side right now.”
Added defenseman Joe Morrow, “It’s so exciting; you can hear the crowd cheering beforehand, and it’s so loud in the building. If it was me, I would have lost the puck a bunch of times. I wouldn’t have even got a shot off. It’s so exciting seeing that from the bench, and even after he scores and the building erupts, it’s a pretty unique feeling. You can’t match that anywhere else.”
Boston’s win over Buffalo in the first leg of this home-and-home on Thursday wasn’t easy, and neither was Saturday’s. The Bruins had to grind it out. They had to compensate for a lackluster second period with a tight, mistake-free third, and they had to hang tough in overtime to get the job done.
It wasn’t pretty. But that didn’t matter.
“You’ve got to live in the moment,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “Some nights are going to be tougher than others, and you’ve got to grind it out. I said that before — points are at a premium right now, so we take the points whichever way they come.”
The Bruins got on the board first on Saturday, courtesy of Loui Eriksson, who was the beneficiary of a perfect passing play that started with David Krejci picking off the Sabres pass before going to David Pastrnak in the left circle. Pastrnak immediately sent the puck across the crease to Eriksson, who faced an open net and buried the puck for the 1-0 lead with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first.
Was it the easiest goal he has ever scored?
“Yeah, that was one of them, I think,” Eriksson said with a grin. “It was a great pass by Pastrnak there, and it’s been a while since I’ve scored, so it’s nice.”
But Buffalo evened the score with about nine minutes left in the second, as Sam Reinhart jumped on a loose puck that popped out to the right circle and backhanded it in, top shelf.
That, however, marked the only blemish on an otherwise terrific night for Tuukka Rask, who finished the game with 37 saves on 38 shots.
“Especially in the second period, he made a lot of big saves for us,” said forward David Pastrnak. “[He] kept us alive and won the hockey game. That picked us up, and happy win for him.”
After letting the Sabres get back into the game in the second, the Bruins had to grind through the third to push the game to overtime. It might not have been pretty for the entire 60 minutes, but it didn’t have to be. The puck stayed out of the net, for the most part, and the effort was there when it needed to be.
“They’re a hard team to play against,” Julien said. “It was a good pace to the game. Even the referees were mentioning how quick of a pace of a game that was, back and forth. And I thought we battled hard — both teams did. And at the end, it took an overtime win to decide the outcome. So I like the way our guys are competing right now, and just by working the way we have and committing a little bit more, we’re only going to get better.”
At this time of year, it’s points that matter, not how you earn them. And lately, the Bruins have been able to earn them in one-goal games, a practice that has eluded them of late.
Not anymore. After two consecutive one-goal wins, the B’s have confidence. And that is dangerous for opponents.
“The one-goal games are more of a playoff style and playoff feel, so if we can learn how to win games like that now, it’s only going to help us going down the road,” Marchand said. “That’s the kind of hockey we want to play. We want to be in those 2-1 games, 3-2 games, not the blowout games. That’s not our style, and we take pride in low-scoring games.”
One last home game stands between the Bruins and a season-long six-game road trip. They know if they submit the type of effort they had against Buffalo on Saturday, they should be just fine against L.A. on Tuesday.
“Right now, in this half of the year, it’s about results, and we got one today,” Krug said. “Obviously, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but we brought a little bit of that road mentality to our own building tonight, and it worked out for us.”