"I was aiming to the net," Pastrnak smiled from the visiting team locker room at PNC Arena on Sunday. "I just tried to hit the net."
Carl Soderberg raced up ice, and kept control as he fed a centering pass from the end boards with two Hurricanes collapsed down low around him. Milan Lucic was near the net, but the pass made its way to Pastrnak all alone at the bottom of the left circle, who wound up and fired a one-timer that stayed low, and beat Anton Khudobin for the win.
"I was trying to hit the net and trying to shoot high, you know, because the goalie was coming from the other side," said Pastrnak. "And it went low, and it was in."
It was all the Bruins needed.
Not even half an hour earlier, the Ottawa Senators had dropped a 4-2 loss in regulation to the Florida Panthers.
"Well, our trainers made sure to tell us," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "And you know, we're not going to lie here. We want to take care of our own business, we talked about that, we have to win games if we want to be in there and we can't rely on others."
"But there's no doubt when the game's over, there's some curiosity there to find out what's going on. That's a big win for Florida, and then we get them on Tuesday, so now it's up to us to continue to do our job."
With two more points, the Bruins pulled to 89 points, three above the Senators, who will have a game in hand until next Sunday, April 5. Boston is back in control of its playoff destiny.
"It's no question, this time of the year, when you're fighting for every point, every point's going to count," said Captain Zdeno Chara. "And obviously we can't control what's happening around the League, but we've got to focus on how we play and that was a well-played tight-checking game, and we came on top."
The Bruins finished up three games in four days and their 16th back-to-back set. It marked their fourth weekend in a row with back-to-back games. The fatigue was noticeable.
"You know, I think everything is in your head, so if you're trying to keep yourself positive and having a good rest, eat good, then you don't feel any tired," said Pastrnak. "It's getting to the end and we can't excuse for schedule. Everybody has the same. So it's hard for everybody else, too."
With just six games now remaining, the Bruins are finding their push. They earned a point against the West's best with Anaheim, powered to grab two points from the Rangers who entered the matchup as the top team in the League, and fought to find a way to get two in OT against the Canes.
"At the end of the day, it's about finding ways to win and we talked about that," said Julien. "It's about results right now."
"Some games, we've played well and we haven't won and we've been disappointed because we say it's about results. Well, [this game] might not have been perfect, but the effort and the will of those guys to continue to battle through fatigue and find a way to win is what I'm really proud of."
The Bruins jumped out to the start they wanted to, when Ryan Spooner scored just 2:21 into the first.
Adam McQuaid forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and Spooner made sure to tag up before Pastrnak flew into the zone and hit him with a feed in the slot. Spooner gave an extra stickhandle to cause Canes' netminder Anton Khudobin to open up just enough for him to drive it in, marking his seventh of the season (through 23 games). Milan Lucic's middle drive opened up the shooting lane.
"[I'm] just trying to shoot more," said Spooner. "I think last year when I was up here, I only had like 40 shots on net in 23 games, and I looked at my shots and I think I have like 55 or something like that now. So I'm just trying to get the puck on net more and it's been going in for me, which is good."
The Bruins outshot the Hurricanes 6-2 to start, and were dictating the pace, but that started to fall off as the game went on. As the mental sharpness faded, Boston still continued to battle.
"I think we're just playing with a little bit more grit," said Spooner. We talked about it as a team and I think that's what we do well, so just trying to do that."
Spooner and Pastrnak have both had an impact on the Bruins' stretch run. Since his recall, Spooner leads the Bruins with seven goals through the 19 games he's been with the big club.
"When you look at what they'll have learned in this small amount of time, compared to a lot of guys who have to go through that stage by stage, they've been forced into that position and in my mind for the most part they've responded well, there's no doubt," said Julien. "
"Anybody who knows the game sees that they still struggle in their own end, with coverage and battles, but they also bring a lot on the offensive side as you saw [on Sunday], so sometimes, you know, you've just got to be patient."
"You try and put them against certain lines that they can not do too much damage for you on the defensive side and you go about it that way and so far, they've responded well with those kind of assignments."
The Bruins ultimately needed that offensive touch.
"You know, we need that," said Rask. "Because you can't rely on a few guys, you need to rely on everybody and it's a good sign that different guys stepped up."
The Bruins played with fire in the second period, with relaxed coverage and Carolina pushing them back on their heels. Nate Gerbe broke through with just 22 seconds to go in the period, roofing a 2-on-1 bid over Tuukka Rask, who was back between the pipes after dealing with a migraine the forced him to leave Saturday's game against the Rangers.
"It was a little frustrating to to give up a goal again at the end of a period with less than 30 seconds, when you've given up a 2-on-1, some bad decision making there," said Julien. "We need to learn from that."
"So, fortunate enough again to find a way to win it in overtime."
Pastrnak and Spooner both find themselves in a completely new situation, pushing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At 18 years old, and the youngest player in the NHL, Pastrnak is embracing that, and the learning curve that goes with it.
"Your first year, you know, as 18 years old, so I'm enjoying every day and trying to give - that I'm here, it's not just my work, but it's all the guys and all the organization, that I got a chance, you know," said Pastrnak. "So I'm just trying to do my best and give it back to them."
The Bruins need all the help they can get as they fight to make the postseason.
"We're getting to the end and we need every point right now," said Pastrnak. "It's great we got those four [this weekend], but it's behind us now, we have to think forward, we have six more games and we want points from them, too."