The native of Novi, Mich., playing in the 24th game of his young career, could not have picked a more perfect time to notch the first goal of his NHL career.
“Very exciting,” Trotman said, breathless and unable to stop smiling. “I don’t think I can put it into words. It was awesome.”
The Bruins were down two goals to the Red Wings heading into the final 15 minutes of the third period on Thursday night. With a win, they could tie Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division (though Detroit does have a game in hand).
So the Bruins turned it on and did the job. Carl Soderberg struck first, then Loui Eriksson, and then, finally, Trotman — playing in front of 30 family and friends — skated the puck along the wall and squeezed it in between Petr Mrazek’s pad and the near post to give Boston a 3-2 win over Detroit.
The victory gave the Bruins their fourth straight win, nine of 10 points over their last five games and a resounding, defining win over a team sitting just above them in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It’s huge,” Trotman said, “especially coming into playoffs knowing that your team can come back from a deficit like that in one period — it says a lot about the character of the team.”
On Thursday night, though, the Bruins admittedly took some time to find that character.
Following the pregame skate earlier that day, the limping Red Wings — who came in with just four wins in their last 14 games — talked relentlessly about the need to get off to a better start in the first period, to take fewer penalties, to play with purpose. They did just that. They peppered Tuukka Rask with a total of 14 shots in the first frame, and they drew two penalties of their own — five, before the game was over.
The Bruins, on the other hand, did not get off to the kind of start they wanted. Chances were few, and they found themselves committing uncharacteristic mistakes that kept them hemmed in their own end for minutes at a time.
“It was a real tough first period,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “They came out ready to play, but they also played the game that we often see them play — tight, aggressive, their D sitting right on top of our forwards. They didn't give us much space, and I think that was probably a reaction from the last time we played them at home, [when] we were able to skate a lot better than we did tonight. They checked a lot better, so it made it tough. I think it took us a while to make an adjustment there on the ice.”
Midway through the second period, with Detroit’s pressure increasing around the net, a shot deflected off the end boards and took a big bounce to the front of the net. Luke Glendening was ready and waiting to tuck the puck in between Rask and the post to make it 1-0.
The second period was the toughest of the night for the Bruins not only because of Detroit’s pressure. They were also without Patrice Bergeron, who missed almost the entirety of the frame after taking a stick to the face.
He was left with a large, deep gash on his upper lip that required more than 20 stitches to seal, but he was able to return for the third period.
“They had to stitch it up on the inside, and work their way up to the outside and stitch it, so they did a good job,” Bergeron said afterward, adding with an attempted grin, “I guess that’s the end of my modeling career, but that’s fine.”
At the start of the third period and with six seconds remaining on their fourth power play, the Wings doubled their lead. Riley Sheahan tried to hammer it in on Rask from the left side and the puck came out to the top of the crease for Stephen Weiss, who put it past Rask.
But with 15 minutes remaining in the game, a switch flipped for the Bruins — just like it did two nights earlier, at right around the same time, against Florida.
“I think the first 42 or so minutes, it felt like wind in our face and uphill,” Rask said. “They just kept coming and coming, and we turned pucks over and couldn’t get anything going. But then they got that second goal, and something just clicked. We started playing good. We looked like a different team after that.”
Just over two minutes after Weiss’s tally — and after Kyle Quincey had gone to the box for holding — Soderberg put Boston on the board. Mrazek managed to kick out Reilly Smith’s bid from the left side, but it landed right on the stick of Soderberg, who put it in under the crossbar.
“It's great to see,” Smith said. “It's tough because we keep putting ourselves in that situation and especially tonight, when you're down by two goals in the third period, it's tough to make that comeback. We got a couple of lucky bounces, and I think those aren't going to happen on every night, so we've got to do a better job, coming out with a better effort and keeping it close.”
The B’s weren’t done. Far from it. About two minutes later, after Zdeno Chara dumped the puck in deep, Smith picked it up and tried to go short-side on Mrazek. The puck popped right out in front to Eriksson, who buried it for his 21st strike of the season.
“Carl made a great forecheck and gave [Smith] a great pass, and he was kind of going around the goalie there,” Eriksson said. “It was kind of a lucky pass, and I'll take it — that was a big one.”
The Red Wings were far from defeated. They kept pushing. They kept testing Rask, and they kept amping up the pressure.
And then, of course, with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Trotman stepped in with the heroics.
“I really felt that once [Detroit] scored that second goal, you saw a real urgency on our bench, which is a great sign,” Julien said. “The guys said, listen, we've got to get going here — and some guys scored some big goals for us. A big power play goal to open the door there, and then even the Trotman goal — great pass by [Brett] Connolly. So there's a lot of good things here that happened, probably within 15 minutes of that third period.”
Connolly, suiting up in his first game as a Bruin after missing 15 with a fractured right index finger, was happy to see nearly 13 minutes of ice time — and happy, of course, to contribute on the scoresheet.
“It’s obviously great,” he said. “It’s not an ideal situation for me to come in with five games left and be injured, so I’m happy with obviously how it started. Still have a long ways to go, and keep getting better from here.”
Earlier this season — and throughout significant stretches of the recent past — the Bruins struggled to find that sense of urgency, that killer instinct, when they faced a deficit. They struggled to mount a comeback. They struggled against feeling defeated.
Now, after mounting consecutive third-period comebacks against teams desperate to solidify their spots in the postseason, that is no longer the case.
And with a mere four games remaining in the regular season and the urgency increasing with every second that passes, there has never been a better time for the Bruins to figure that out.
“It’s great to see that we don’t give up and we still have that fight in us, even though it was a tough night,” said Rask, who made 35 saves on 37 shots. “[We] couldn’t get anything going, couldn’t score goals even though we had a couple of chances. A really deflating goal there at the start of the third, but it’s great to see that we don’t back down and we keep going.
“So that’s a good sign moving forward.”