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Five Takeaways: Panthers Get Halaked, Bruins Win 2-1 In OT

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Torey Krug scored with 52 seconds left in overtime and Jaro Halak made 32 saves for the Boston Bruins as they beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 and extended their win streak to four games.

After Panthers forward MacKenzie Weegar made it 1-0 Panthers 6:55 into the second period, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron tied the game at one 11:00 into the middle frame. Halak and Panthers goalie Chris Driedger (26 saves) and Halak kept the game tied until overtime, with Halak seeing the majority of rubber. 

The Bruins (43-13-12, 98 points) are still nine points clear of the Tampa Bay Lightning (42-20-5, 89 points) but can pad that lead to eleven points when they face the Bolts back at TD Garden on Saturday night. 

Panthers Get Halaked

Let’s make this clear: The Boston Bruins do not get a point from this game if not for Halak. Not only did Halak make 32 saves – with 29 of them in the final two periods and overtime – but he also literally got the game to overtime. Halak made a pad save on Panthers winger Brett Connolly with 1.6 seconds left in overtime to keep the game tied at one. The save of the game in overtime though as Halak robbed Panthers winger Alexsander Barkov on a breakaway 3:12 into the extra frame.

Halak once again showed that he is arguably the best backup goalie in the NHL and could be a starter on at least a quarter of the 31 teams in the league. To say he has been in a zone as of late is an understatement. He is now 8-1-0 with a 2.16 GAA and .919 save percentage in last nine starts. This was actually Halak’s 500th career start and it should go down as one of the best!

Bruins Weathered Storm

The Panthers came into this Atlantic Division tilt looking at it as a must-win game. They had lost seven straight games at home and were just 3-6-1 in their last ten games. The expectation was that the Panthers would be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Bruins in an effort to remain in the race for a playoff spot. They didn’t exactly do that in the first period but in the final two periods and overtime, even the sink came flying at the Bruins as they out-shot the Bruins 15-5 in the second period and then 12-7 in the third. The Bruins didn’t register a shot until 11:04 into the second period and actually went 20 minutes straight without a shot in 5-on-5 play. 

Obviously Halak was huge making 29 saves in the final two periods and overtime adn the Bruins never even sniff that extra frame if not for him but as they’ve done numerous times this season when they don’t have their A-game, they found a way to win. The Bruins blocked 14 shots and they scrapped their way to at least a point before Krug won it in overtime. They also kept their cool despite two calls going against them and appeared to rally around Carlo when he had to leave the game thanks to the elbow from Dadonov. 

One of the main reasons the Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now is that even when things go wrong, they don’t fall apart for them. The Bruins hardly ever veer away from their structured system and that’s why they can weather the storm. 

Officiating Continues To Be An Enigma

Anyone who reads me here or follows me on Twitter knows that I do my best to remain objective and fair in my coverage of the Bruins and the NHL. In fact, I’ll preface this by saying that what about to write regarding NHL officiating this season stems from my love for the game and the league. I want this game to be the best it can be but sadly with the state of officiating today, it can’t be. NHL officiating has become an absolute enigma and it has to be impossible for players right now, to know exactly what is a penalty and what isn’t. 

Midway through the first period, Bruins winger Ondrej Kase and Panthers winger Evgeni Dadonov collided with their knees. The collision looked incidental but if anything was going to be called, it appeared to be Dadonov that would go to the sin-bin. Instead and despite the fact, he had his back to Dadonov and was injured on the play, Kase received a minor for tripping at 11:41.

Gagne-Bergeron Pro-Am

Thankfully Kase would return but Dadonov would strike again 10:46 into the second period and this time he sent Carlo out of the game for good with what appeared to be a concussion. As Carlo was bearing down on Dadonov, the Panthers winger looked behind him right at Carlo and then seconds later laid a reverse chicken wing elbow right on Carlo’s head. The initial call was a five-minute major but then inexplicably, it was reduced to a two-minute minor. Apparently referees Marc Joannette and Brian Pochmara aren’t aware of Rule 45.3 in the NHL rulebook, which says an elbow to the head that causes injury is a five-minute major.

If the NHL truly cares about player safety, there is no situation where a penalty for a clear headshot with intent should be reduced! That was simply pathetic buffoonery and a total disregard for a player’s safety by the player and the referees!

Dirty 30 For Bergy Again

Bergeron has now hit the 30-goal plateau for three straight seasons and six times in his illustrious 16 seasons in the NHL. Bergeron is the second player on the Bruins and on ‘The Perfection Line’ to score 30 goals this season. Marchand has two more goals to give the trio three 30-goal scorers for the second straight season. 

As mentioned above, the goal came on the powerplay resulting from Dadonov’s reduced elbow penalty and Bergeron could be seen glaring at the Panthers bench after he scored 14 seconds into the man advantage, clearly letting them know that one was for Carlo.

Time For Krug Talks To Be More Than ‘Cordial’

In his postmortem for the NHL Trade Deadline on February 24, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney told the media that talks have been “ongoing and cordial” with Torey Krug and agent Wade Arnott but no real progress had been made. Last Friday, Krug told the media he was staying focused on the Bruins mission to get back to the Stanley Cup Final and win that final game they couldn’t win last June. Well, if Krug keeps playing the way he’s playing right now, not only will his value go up but him being unsigned will cause a distraction. With a goal and an assist Thursday, Krug has a four-game point streak going. He has a goal and four assists during that span and with that goal being an OT winner, his value was only emphasized even more. Time to make those contract talks more than ‘cordial’.

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

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