The Boston Bruins came into Tuesday night’s game carrying a 2-3-0 record in their last five games and hoping to notch their third consecutive win. After losing at home to the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 (12/1) and then twice on the road first in Sunshine against the Florida Panthers 5-0 (12/4) and two nights later in a slightly better attempt against the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 (12/6), they returned home for a Saturday game against the Toronto Maple Leafs that reinvigorated their confidence as they tallied a 6-3 victory. The Bruins then headed to Ottawa for another game on Sunday, December 9, 2018, playing again in less than 24 hours. They pulled out another physical game and another win.
During their pregame discussions with the media after the morning skate they talked about the necessity of continuing to play to the level that got them those two wins, but as the first period began, their response to the visiting Arizona Coyotes was anything but high paced and physical. In net for the Bruins was Tuukka Rask who was 7-6-2, 2.50 GAA, and a .917 Save % on the season. Against the Coyotes he was 10-1-0, with one shutout, a 1.54 GAA and a .942 Save % in 11 career games. At the opposite end, Darcy Kuemper was starting for Arizona bringing a 4-5-2 record, 2.71 GAA, and .914 Save %. Against the Bruins he was 0-3-0 with a 2.71 GAA, and .884 Save % in three career games.
Just under three minutes into the game, Clayton Keller caught fellow Boston University Terriers alum Charlie McAvoy with a high stick. McAvoy headed down the tunnel for repairs as the stick caught him up under his visor and Keller took a seat in the penalty box for four minutes. Indicative of their sluggish start in the game, Boston was unable to capitalize while on the extended man advantage. Fortunately for the Bruins, McAvoy who was in just his fourth game back after a concussion and had experienced a dangerous hit late in Saturday’s game against the Leafs, was back before the end of the period.
Matt Grzelcyk was whistled at 10:31 of the opening period for a hook, and the Coyotes would make him do the skate of shame from the penalty box to the bench when they scored with just nine seconds remaining on the power play. Nick Schmaltz, assisted by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Keller with a little redemption for his penalty, managed to get his Coyotes on the scoreboard first. That goal wasn’t necessarily anything for the Bruins to worry about, but 40 seconds later and Nick Cousins, putting it glove side high on Rask, with assists from Alex Goligoski and Josh Archibald was the moment that it looked like perhaps Boston wasn’t going to be able to make things happen.
“I think we talked about, for the most part, it wasn’t anything crazy. It was about respecting what was going on. I thought we were a little disrespectful to the game, showed in our power play. We were trying to force plays, not being hard enough, supporting one and another. Then we talked about making some adjustments and closing our gaps and allowing our d to stay forward if our forwards worked back, and then we got some good transition opportunities and goals off of that. So, that was it for the most part. Listen, let’s play the way we’re capable of and let’s see what happens,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy shared.
Listen, let’s play the way we’re capable of and let’s see what happens — Bruce Cassidy
More concerning than the score was yet another injury to a Bruin. This time it was David Backes. At first it looked like another high stick, what with how fast things were moving, but as Backes cupped his hands to his face and began skating for the bench, it was clear he was hurt. As the door to the bench flung open, Backes continued to sprint down the tunnel. It was only upon watching the replay that it became clear that Backes had been hit in the face by Ekman-Larsson’s skate. Undoubtedly, while the rest of the Bruins tried to soldier on it would not be surprising if some of them were trying to get that image out of their minds.
Another look at David Backes' injury.
Guy can't catch a break. pic.twitter.com/VbfmUxUgnA
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) December 12, 2018
With what was said during that first intermission and undoubtedly the return of Backes—who would have to take one more trip for repairs when he started bleeding again—a message had been sent. Somehow, watching them play, it seemed that if they could just solve Kuemper on one goal, that they would open a scoring gate. Danton Heinen, with his fourth goal of the season would do just that, going to the net, glove side low, off an impressive cross-crease pass by Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, getting the Bruins on the board at 8:40 of the middle period.
Thirty-three seconds later, David Pastrnak in almost the same place as Heinen, with almost an identical shot on net, tied the game, with assists from Brad Marchand and David Krejci, who was playing in his 800th NHL game. And 2:18 later, Marchand with another attempt on the glove side, would get the Bruins their first lead of the evening. Krejci was awarded the secondary assist on this one as well. Three goals for the Bruins in just 2:51 of game time.
This pass to Marchand from Pastrnak was a thing of beauty. pic.twitter.com/P0wAkBCiRf
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 12, 2018
The Bruins top line of Marchand, Krejci, and Pastrnak was not finished. Marchand would get his second goal of the game, this time the primary assist being Krejci’s and the secondary Pastrnak’s, as he caught a rebound and put it in on the blocker side low. Marchand’s goal was scored just 1:39 after their previous one, with all four of their goals coming in the span of 4:50 of game time.
And for the Coyote’s top line of Lawson Crouse, Schmaltz and Keller? They found themselves sitting on the bench. Every time Arizona’s Head Coach Rick Tocchet put them out, Cassidy countered with the Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak line.
“I didn’t like that line. Any time I put them out there, I didn’t have the last change. [Bruce] Cassidy put his Marchand [line] in, so that tells you, to me, you know, that line, if the other coach is going to put their best line against you, you’ve better have some pride. I didn’t like that line at all. They were a little better in the third, but not good. Not good at all,” Tocchet said after the game.
Arizona would get one more goal in the second period just 90 seconds after the Bruins fourth goal. This time it would come from Michael Bunting who was playing in his first career NHL game.
After that flurry of scoring, the remainder of the game was a lot of north and south play, and what looked like perhaps the Bruins trying to protect their lead. Despite each team getting another power play in the third—Coyotes Jakob Chychrun for holding and Boston’s John Moore for tripping—neither team would get another puck past the opposing goaltender. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, while Arizona had six players in Boston’s end and an empty net at the other, Rask would have to make one last big save to keep things in favor of the Bruins.
The Bruins won their 14th straight game against Arizona, with their last loss going all the way back to October 9, 2010, while the Bruins and Coyotes were playing in Prague. The Coyotes won that game 5-2. However, the current streak for the Bruins is the longest active win streak by one team versus an opponent in the NHL.