For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins (38-11-12, 88 points) will meet the defending regular season champions from the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames (31-24-6, 68 points). The teams will meet again in four days at TD Garden to conclude their season series.
Puck drop between the Bruins and Flames is set for 9:00 pm on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Gutsy Win In Edmonton
The Bruins let the Edmonton Oilers hang around for too long on Wednesday night. Sam Gagner scored a powerplay goal in the third period to force overtime, pushing a game the Bruins largely dominated into an extra session. David Pastrnak made sure that his team got the important extra point as he scored his league leading 43rd goal to give the Bruins a 2-1 overtime victory.
“Torey [Krug] had a one-on-two, made a great defensive play,” Pastrnak said postgame on Wednesday. “Krech [David Krejci] kind of won a battle and I was gone so he sent it over. Just went on a breakaway. Little fake poke-check [by Smith] so I figured I’d try to go five-hole and good win.”
The Bruins collected their second consecutive overtime victory. Charlie McAvoy had the game winning goal on February 5th for a 2-1 victory over Chicago.
“Obviously, this year was a little tough the way it was going for us,” said Pastrnak. “Lately we’ve been good so that’s good. Getting some confidence back and hopefully we can keep that going. Penalty kill was excellent for us, especially in the last one, big plays.”
Pastrnak also picked up an assist on Patrice Bergeron’s 27th goal of the season, the Bruins only regulation goal in the victory.
Special Teams Dominance
It was a battle of elite powerplays on Wednesday in Edmonton. The Bruins and Oilers were tied for the most goals on the man advantage in the NHL this season. They combined for just one in their game at Rogers Place. A big reason for the lack of offense on that night? Both penalty killing units.
“I think both penalty kills were clearly better than the power plays tonight,” head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted. “I thought the puck was bouncing a bit, that had something to do with it. But at the end of the day, you’re going to have those nights. Both teams have good special teams on both sides of it, good goaltending. Listen, yeah, you’re glad to see you win a game you don’t need your power play to score.”
The Oilers had the game’s lone powerplay marker. It was Gagner’s fifth of the season as he tipped home a shot by rookie Ethan Bear. The shot fooled Tuukka Rask, who overall was stellar on the night.
“We were battling hard,” said Rask. “We kept them to the outside. And I think the second period, they had the most dangerous chances on their power play. We, I think, whenever rebounds were laying there, guys cleared them out…good battle.”
Rask made 28 saves on the night, including ten on the powerplay and 15 at even strength.
Hello, Old Friend
Geoff Ward joined the Boston Bruins as an assistant coach prior to the 2007-08 season. He remained with the team through the 2013-14 season, winning a Stanley Cup with the club in 2011. Earlier this season, Ward took over for disgraced former coach Bill Peters.
The Flames currently sit as the second Wild Card in the Western Conference, a hair above the Arizona Coyotes. Ward knows that if the Flames are to remain in the postseason mix and defeat the Bruins, they’ll need their best effort.
“They put the same game on the ice every night,” Ward told reporters on Thursday. “They’re really structured, they’re very detailed, they have good skill at every position in the lineup. They’re a really good team when they’re playing their game, and most nights they are.”
Ward isn’t just familiar with the style and culture of the Bruins, he’s also familiar with the team’s strong leadership core. It’s a group of players that he coached while in Boston. It is a group that includes Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Rask.
“When you look at the leadership core of the Bruins and what that leadership core means, and how they prepare their team to play, it’s second to none in the league. That makes them ready every night and that makes them hard to play against. … The leadership demands it, the coaching staff demands it, and the young players make sure that they’re ready to go.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
Bruins lines are subject to change. They are based off of Wednesday’s win in Edmonton. Kevan Miller (lower-body) and Connor Clifton (lower-body) remain on IR and are not on the trip. Anton Blidh, Par Lindholm and John Moore are expected to be the healthy scratches. Rask is the expected starter, while Halak is expected to get the go tomorrow night in Vancouver.
Calgary Flames Lines:
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Matthew Tkachuk
Milan Lucic – Sam Bennett – Dillon Dube
Zac Rinaldo – Mark Jankowski – Tobias Rieder
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
T.J. Brodie – Michael Stone
Oliver Kylington – Alexander Yelesin
Flames lines against the Bruins are subject to change. Talbot is the expected starter, while David Rittich is slated to back him up. Juuso Valimaki (knee) is on IR, as is captain Mark Giordano (hamstring). Travis Hamonic (undisclosed) is listed as week-to-week, while Derek Ryan (illness) is day-to-day and a game-time decision.