The Boston Bruins normally have owned the third period in previous seasons, but this year’s iteration of the Black and Gold has struggled in the game’s final 20 final minutes. Headed into Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, the Bruins had been outscored by a 16-7 margin in the third period and were blown off the ice giving up three unanswered goals in a winnable home game against the Edmonton Oilers.
The leaky defense was proving inadequate at holding third period leads anymore and 50/50 games headed into the final minutes weren’t going Boston’s way anymore. Well, all that changed against the Devils in a 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon where the Bruins held a 3-2 lead after two periods, and then extended that advantage with two goals in a strong finishing kick.
Patrice Bergeron finished up a David Pastrnak drive to the net for the importance insurance marker halfway through the third, and then Jake DeBrusk added the empty netter to truly put things out of reach for a young, improving Devils group.
“I think it all happened in the third,” said Cassidy, while the team also managed to get a better effort on the road to improve their record to 2-4-0 away from home ice this season. “You get the empty netter and all of a sudden you’re up three goals, you extend the lead. If you could script it as a coach that’s how you would want to do it.”
There were encouraging signs whether it was Erik Haula cutting out his season-long slump for first goal of the season, or Karson Kuhlman rewarding Bruce Cassidy’s loyalty by setting up the game’s first goal with a neutral zone steal and pass to set up the score.
“We did a great job at responding and taking care of business,” said Marchand, who scored a pair of goals to help the Bruins get the lead in the first 40 minutes. “I really like the way we played, we continued to play hard in the third.
“We had a pretty good game, but there’s times we [as a line] got on each other for needing to be better in situations. We aren’t light on each other, I love the way we want to hold each other to a high accountability, if you don’t do your best you let the others down.”
Clearly there are still issues to be ironed out with this Boston Bruins team. Brandan Carlo scuffled again and was a team-worst minus-2 in the win, and the Bruins still look a little light on their back end outside of Charlie McAvoy’s Herculean performance with six blocked shots, three assists and a plus-4 in 23:45 of ice time.
And middle-6 forwards like DeBrusk and Haula need to continue building on their games after pushing onto the score sheet in Saturday’s win. But ahead of a big Sunday night showdown with the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden, it was a good sign to see the Bruins address some concerning trends in a needed two points on the road on Saturday.