The Boston Bruins continued to be the hottest team in the NHL on Tuesday night, holding off a late comeback bid to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. It was Boston’s third win in a row, and keeps them three points back of the Tampa Bay Lightning with two games in hand for the best record in Eastern Conference.
Tuukka Rask extended his ridiculous points streak to 21 games in the win, making 27 stops to move to 19-0-2 since the end of November. Sean Kuraly, David Krejci, and Danton Heinen scored for the B’s, who yet again allowed the first goal on Tuesday. At this point, the Bruins could just start games down 1-0 and their record would likely be the same.
Here are my six Extra Beats on why the Bruins were able to defeat the Red Wings for the third time this season:
- Brad Marchand’s “replacement” steps up yet again.
With Marchand’s latest suspension coming to an end after tonight’s contest, Danton Heinen will likely be shifting down to his customary spot on the third line. The rookie never looked overwhelmed or even out of place alongside two of the B’s most dynamic offensive contributors during this five-game stint, and stepped up huge in Boston’s one-goal win on Tuesday night. Heinen was at the center of the B’s first goal, and scored the eventual game-winner in the third period. Heinen is now fourth in the NHL in rookie scoring with 12 goals and 25 assists, and proved that it really doesn’t matter what line combo he’s on, since he’s consistently produced all season long. Heinen has 20 points in his last 23 games, spanning time on the first line, third line, and with odd linemates (like in his game-winning tally).
- The fourth line was the catalyst to the Bruins’ comeback win.
Although the fourth line trio of Frank Vatrano, Sean Kuraly, and Austin Czarnik didn’t get much ice time in the first two periods – Vatrano left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury – their energy was key to the Bruins’ second period goals. The B’s looked lackadaisical during the first few minutes of the middle period, and an early PP goal from Detroit didn’t kick-start their effort. But a solid shift from the fourth line with around seven minutes elapsed seem to get the Bruins’ motor’s running, with Vatrano, Charlie McAvoy, and Zdeno Chara all earning quality scoring chances. The first line came out next and kept the pressure on, and soon afterwards the Bruins notched two goals in a two-minute span, with Kuraly being the beneficiary of a great pass from David Pastrnak. The efforts of the fourth line were evident all night long, with Kuraly and Czarnik assisting Heinen’s GWG in the third.
- Thanks to Austin Czarnik, the Bruins’ front office may have another hard decision coming up soon.
With the Bruins this season, it’s not just “Next Man Up”, it’s everyone contributing immediately after getting called up. And it’s no different with Czarnik, who had an assist on Torey Krug’s power-play goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win, and earned another helper on the game-winner on Tuesday night. Although he only saw less than ten minutes of ice time, the 25-year-old made an impression in nearly every shift. Czarnik has torn it up in the AHL this season, as he was just one point behind the league leaders prior to his recent call-up, and his play indicates that he deserves to stay in Boston for an extended period of time.
- The B’s needed some Tuukka Time late to preserve the W.
Thanks to the Bruins’ defense, Tuukka Rask was rarely under a ton of pressure for the majority of Tuesday’s contest. He made a couple dazzling saves in the first, and Detroit had a strong first few minutes of the second and third periods, but Rask was never really under siege or in immense trouble. Rask did not allow an even-strength goal, and saved the game with less than 90 seconds left in regulation with a fantastic pad save on Frans Nielsen. Nielsen had just scored on a very similar play to get Detroit within a goal, and without the ultra-athletic save, the B’s would have likely have gone to overtime with a team that had no business earning at least a point. Rask has been playing out of his or any other goalie’s mind for over two months, and that late save was definitely one of the more stellar and important ones in his last few contests.
- David Pastrnak was electric.
There are times when Pastrnak seems to try to be really flashy, and attempts some really hard/head-scratching passes and shots. He is super talented but can be a little frustrating at times, but tonight he was under control and at his best. His no-look pass to Kuraly on the first goal was a thing of beauty. The vision and the restraint needed to not only see the small opening, but to disguise the pass as a shot which completely baffled Jimmy Howard, was absolutely remarkable. He was active all night, making plays on both ends and setting up teammates on several occasions. Pastrnak may have only been credited with one assist, but his fingerprints were all over this entire victory.
- The young defensemen continued to impress.
Torey Krug had the “A” on his sweater tonight, as he was returning home, and he came through with a strong performance in front of many of his friends and family. Krug had three shots on net in over 20 minutes of ice time, and has two goals and six assists in his last nine games. Charlie McAvoy seemed to have shaken off all the rust that was on him, as he had a much stronger and solid performance on Tuesday than he did on Saturday night. McAvoy had two shots on net and blocked two more in just under 21 minutes of ice time, and looked like the same player that he was before missing four games due to a surgical procedure to correct a rapid heartbeat. Matt Grzelcyk was a +2 and had two blocked shots himself, and had a stellar stick play that prevented a breakaway attempt in the second period. During Boston’s absurd last two months, their team defense has been outstanding, and the youngsters at the blue line have proven that it’s not just from a scorching hot goaltender.