Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Rask Returns From 1-Game Absence as B's Pick Up Another Absolutely Critical 2 Points vs. Predators
After picking up a huge 2-1 road win in Brooklyn against the Islanders (35-28-12) on Saturday night, Boston (40-30-6) responded in another must-win situation this evening with a victory in regulation vs. Nashville (39-26-11), 4-1 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask (24 saves, 34th win of the season) calmed our nerves for a game at least as he returned to stifle Nashville after he missed the Islanders matchup with a shady lower-body injury. Providence Bruin Zane McIntyre was called up on an emergency basis before this contest which set Twitter ablaze during the pregame warmups but it turns out it was only because backup goaltender Anton Khudobin was under the weather.
At roughly the same time, Toronto (36-24-15) beat Florida (33-32-11) 3-2 to stay a point ahead of Boston with a game in hand while the B's temporarily went up three points on the idle Lightning (37-29-9) and four points on the idle Islanders who each have a game in hand. A key to Boston picking up consecutive wins is that they grabbed an early 2-0 lead on Nashville (who were playing the 2nd half of a back-to-back on the road) in the first period. Patrice Bergeron (18th goal of the season) put in a rebound at 2:28 from Zdeno Chara (600th career NHL point) and Brad Marchand. Pekka Rinne (28 saves) has been a very good NHL goaltender for years so I'm sure that he'd love to have David Krejci's goal back. The somewhat weak shot went off Rinne's stick and through his five-hole at 13:52 for Krejci's 22nd goal of the season, assisted by David Pastrnak and Drew Stafford.
Nothing notable happened in the second period so we fast forward to the third where things got interesting when Craig Smith tipped in Roman Josi's shot from the point at 11:16. Ryan Ellis had the second assist on Smith's 10th goal of the season which ended Rask's shutout bid and put plenty of fear in the always nervous Garden crowd. That's when fellow Providence College alum Noel Acciari came through at the perfect time for his first NHL goal: the B's had a 3-on-1 and red-hot Riley Nash (who has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 3 games) fed Acciari for an easy top shelf one-timer at 15:47. Noel got some valuable experience with Boston last season in his first professional year and this was his 24th game this season (he was injured on Jan. 2) so it was a beautiful moment to see the Johnston, RI native score such a memorable tally for his hometown team.
David Backes added an empty-netter (his 17th goal of the season) from Dominic Moore at 18:29 to officially put the Predators away. All that was left to do was watch Kevan Miller drop the gloves with Cody McLeod (2 of the toughest guys in the NHL) and a bunch of other penalties on both teams in garbage time. Overall, it was a fine effort for the Bruins and they'll need another just like it on Thursday (7:30, NBC Sports) vs. Dallas (31-34-11). The Stars have been one of the league's biggest disappointments this season so I'm sure that there is nothing that former Bruin Tyler Seguin and his pissed off teammates would want to do more than put a serious dent in Boston's playoff chances. Now is the time for the B's to put together a win-streak since after the Stars, they also face the Panthers on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN). Neither of those teams will be in the playoffs so needless to say, the Bruins have way more on the line than they collectively do.