Linus Ullmark recorded a season-high 41 saves, while Matt Grzelcyk scored his first goal of the season not a minute too soon in the dying minutes of the game to lift the Boston Bruins over the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2, at Rogers Place on Thursday.
Ullmark (6-4-0, 2.61 goals-against average, .917 save percentage, in 10 games played) made 41 saves on 43 shots against in the win for Boston.
Edmonton goaltender, Stuart Skinner (2-5-0, 2.75 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in eight games played), turned aside 27 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 13-8-2 (28 points) overall and remain in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division– one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for 4th in the division standings.
The Oilers fell to 16-9-0 (32 points) on the season and in 3rd place in the Pacific Division– three points behind the Anaheim Ducks for 2nd place and two points ahead of the 4th place Vegas Golden Knights.
Anton Blidh returned to the lineup after dealing with an upper body injury since Nov. 28th against the Vancouver Canucks, while John Moore and Karson Kuhlman were also re-inserted amongst some redone lines and defensive pairings as acting head coach, Joe Sacco, was forced to make adjustments.
With Brandon Carlo (lower body) out day-to-day, Moore took over Carlo’s role on the second pairing alongside Grzelcyk.
Meanwhile, Blidh and Kuhlman’s reintroduction to the lineup meant that Curtis Lazar and Oskar Steen joined Jack Ahcan as healthy scratches for the B’s in Edmonton.
Erik Haula centered the third line with Jake DeBrusk at left win and Nick Foligno on right wing, while Trent Frederic manned the fourth line center role– flanked by Blidh and Kuhlman on his wings.
Jakub Zboril (lower body) and Tomáš Nosek (non-COVID illness) remained out of the lineup due to injury and illness on Thursday, while Bruce Cassidy (COVID-19 protocol) remained at home outside Boston in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol.
Leon Draisaitl kicked the night off with a tripping infraction after he brought down Moore at 3:50 of the first period, presenting Boston with the game’s first power play.
The Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.
In fact, Boston was stumped on a 5-on-3 advantage for a little more than 10 seconds after Zach Hyman hooked Patrice Bergeron and cut a rut to the penalty box at 5:37.
Almost midway through the first period, Edmonton got their first taste of a power play opportunity as Frederic hooked Connor McDavid at 8:26.
The Oilers couldn’t beat Boston’s penalty kill, however.
Things did not pan out in Edmonton’s favor on their subsequent power play when Foligno was assessed a roughing minor for retaliating against Hyman at 16:03.
Just eight seconds into the penalty kill, the Bruins struck first on the scoreboard as Bergeron forced a turnover in the neutral zone before sending Brad Marchand (10) into the attacking zone on a breakaway prior to elevating a backhand show over Skinner’s glove side to make it, 1-0.
Bergeron (11) had the only assist on Marchand’s 32nd career shorthanded goal at 16:15 of the first period and– as a result– tied Phil Esposito for the fourth-most assists in a Bruins uniform (553).
Ray Bourque (1,111 assists), John Bucyk (794) and Bobby Orr (624) round out the top-three in franchise assist leaders.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard despite trailing the Oilers, 13-9, in shots on goal.
Boston held an advantage in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (7-5) and hits (13-7), while Edmonton led in faceoff win percentage (54-46) after one period.
Both teams were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Draisaitl cross checked Marchand 10 seconds into the second period and presented the Bruins with an early power play in the middle period as a result.
Boston didn’t let this opportunity go to waste as Kailer Yamamoto turned the puck over to Taylor Hall, who then dished the rubber biscuit from the corner boards to DeBrusk (5) for a catch and release goal on the short side to put the Bruins up by two.
Hall (7) tallied the only assist on DeBrusk’s power-play goal as Boston pulled ahead, 2-0, at 2:02 of the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Markus Niemelainen caught Frederic with a high stick, which led to the two players becoming a bit entangled as Frederic thought he had been wronged beyond the eyes of the on-ice officials.
Niemelainen went to the box for high sticking, while Frederic picked up a roughing minor and the two penalties resulted in some 4-on-4 action at 13:31 of the second period.
Neither team could score with the extra room on the ice available at both ends.
Minutes later, though, Haula was penalized for holding at 16:55 and the Oilers went on the power play late in the period.
Edmonton took their time on the ensuing skater advantage, but the barrage of shots eventually led to the formation of a triangle in which the Oilers worked the puck from the point to the side back to the point before Tyson Barrie setup Draisaitl (22) for the one-timer goal on the short side– cutting Boston’s lead in half in the process.
The Oilers trailed, 2-1, thanks to Draisaitl’s power-play goal at 18:14 with assists from Barrie (11) and McDavid (28).
Heading into the second intermission, Edmonton extended their domination in total shots to a, 27-15, advantage– outshooting Boston, 14-6, in the second period alone.
Though the Bruins led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and dominated in blocked shots (12-7), giveaways (16-12), hits (19-11) and faceoff win% (54-47), if you take your foot off the gas against the Oilers’ power play, well… don’t be too surprised if Edmonton surges in momentum thereafter for a bit.
As it was, the Oilers led in takeaways, 5-2, heading into the final frame as both teams were 1/3 on the power play.
Bergeron hooked McDavid to give the Oilers a power play at 4:03 of the third period.
This time, however, Boston’s penalty kill stood tall against Edmonton’s skater advantage, but the B’s presented the Oilers with another chance on the power play at 8:58 when Charlie Coyle was assessed a holding infraction against Yamamoto.
It only took Edmonton about half the time on Coyle’s minor to convert on the power play as it did the first time that Draisaitl scored a power-play goal in the second period and, coincidentally, Draisaitl (23) had the Oilers’ second power-play goal as well.
McDavid fed Draisaitl a pass from the dot to the goal line for a one-timer goal on Ullmark’s short side– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.
McDavid (29) and Barrie (12) had the assists on Draisaitl’s second goal of the game at 9:50 of the third period.
Late in the period, the Bruins had possession in the attacking zone where they worked the puck around from Hall to Craig Smith before finding Grzelcyk at his unnatural spot on the ice.
Grzelcyk (1), a left shot, blasted a shot from the right point off the far side post and into the back of the twine for his first goal of the season, as well as the eventual game-winner, as he gave Boston a, 3-2, lead at 17:27.
Smith (5) and Hall (8) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s late third period goal.
Minutes later, Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 1:55 remaining in the game, but it was to no avail as the Bruins held off Edmonton’s best skaters for the, 3-2, win at the final horn.
Boston finished the night trailing in shots on goal, 43-30, despite making things close in the third period– only trailing the Oilers, 16-15, in third period shots alone.
The Bruins left Rogers Place with the two-point victory in regulation as well as the lead in blocked shots (19-9), giveaways (20-15), hits (23-17) and faceoff win% (57-43).
Edmonton had the most success on the power play, however, having gone 2/5 on the night to Boston’s 1/3 conversion rate on the skater advantage.
In the end, though, the final score was all that mattered as the Bruins won, 3-2, and improved to 9-4-0 (5-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 10-0-0 (6-0-0 on the road) when leading after one period and 9-1-0 (6-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
The Oilers, meanwhile, fell to 7-9-0 (3-4-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 0-8-0 (0-4-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-8-0 (2-3-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.
Boston visits the Calgary Flames on Saturday night to wrap up their Western Canada road trip (1-0-1) before returning home to host the Golden Knights on Dec. 14th at TD Garden.