NHL Nick's Net

Hall caps Bruins, 4-3, OT victory over Predators

The Boston Bruins have won eight out of their last nine games and knocked off the top team in the Western Conference with a, 4-3, overtime victory courtesy of Taylor Hall’s game-winning goal Saturday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

Boston jumped out to a two-goal lead early in the first period thanks to Craig Smith and Mike Reilly before Nashville tied things up midway through the second period.

Both teams swapped goals almost three minutes apart in the third period as regulation gave way to overtime.

Linus Ullmark (13-5-0, 2.51 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 18 games played) made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the win for the Bruins– extending their winning streak to five games (their longest of the season).

Predators goaltender, Juuse Saros (20-10-2, 2.35 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in 32 games played), stopped 40 out of 44 shots faced in the overtime loss.

The B’s improved to 22-11-2 (46 points) and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Preds fell to 24-12-3 (51 points)– still leading the Central Division at the time of this writing.

Boston finished their season series 2-0-0 against Nashville, outscoring the Predators, 6-3, in that span.

Derek Forbort returned from the league’s COVID-19 protocol and was paired with Charlie McAvoy to start the afternoon, while Urho Vaakanainen was partered with Tyler Lewington on the third defensive pairing.

With Forbort back in the lineup, Jack Ahcan was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Nick Foligno (lower body), Connor Clifton (COVID protocol), Trent Frederic (upper body), John Moore (upper body) and Matt Grzelcyk (COVID protocol) remained out of the lineup on Saturday.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other adjustments from Thursday night’s, 3-2, win against Philadelphia to Saturday’s matinée with Nashville.

Karson Kuhlman was the only healthy scratch for Boston.

Brad Marchand skated into the attacking zone and sent a pass through the middle of the ice to Patrice Bergeron for a one-touch redirection pass over to Smith as Boston’s first line skated towards the net early in the opening frame.

Smith (5) sent a catch and release wrist shot over Saros’ glove on the short side– bar down– to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead at 3:20 of the first period.

Bergeron (18) and Marchand (23) tallied the assists on the goal.

Moments later, Erik Haula slipped a pass to Reilly (4) as the Bruins defender pinched in from the point and went to the net, holding the puck on his stick before sending a backhand shot over Saros’ leg pad and under the glove for a two-goal lead at 7:37.

Haula (9) and Hall (17) notched the assists on Reilly’s goal and the B’s led, 2-0, before the midpoint of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Colton Sissons (5) riffled a shot from the high slot between the hash marks off of Ullmark’s arm on the blocker side and into the back of the twine.

Dante Fabbro (10) had the only assist as the Predators cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, at 14:30.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 10-6, while Nashville held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (68-32).

Boston also led in his (19-14), but both teams split takeaways, 4-4, and giveaways, 4-4, as well.

Neither team had seen any action on the power play heading into the middle period.

Forbort and Michael McCarron exchanged pleasantries and dropped the gloves after a stoppage at 3:43 of the second period, resulting in the 11th fighting major for Boston this season.

Less than a minute later, Brandon Carlo was penalized for cross checking and presented the Predators with the first power play of the afternoon at 4:15 of the second period.

The Preds, however, couldn’t convert on the skater advantage.

Instead, Nashville pounced in the vulnerable minute after special teams play– tying the game, 2-2, at 7:32 of the second period thanks to a goal from Luke Kunin (8) outside the faceoff circle– beating Ullmark on the blocker side as Carlo may have inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

Nick Cousins (7) and Mark Borowiecki (2) had the assists on Kunin’s goal.

Through 40 minutes of action Saturday afternoon, the Bruins and Predators were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Boston holding a, 28-17, advantage in shots on goal– including an, 18-11, advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s controlled blocked shots (6-5) and hits (37-35) after two periods, while Nashville led in takeaways (6-5) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Both teams had six giveaways each, while only Nashville had witnessed any time on the power play and went 0/1 heading into the second intermission.

Tanner Jeannot hooked Forbort at 2:07 of the third period and yielded a power play to Boston for the first and only time Saturday afternoon as a result.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as the B’s worked the puck around the attacking zone umbrella formation.

McAvoy sent a pass to Marchand along the wall before Marchand (20) unloaded a wrist shot off of Saros’ glove and into the top corner on the short side– giving No. 63 in black and gold his ninth consecutive season with at least 20 goals.

McAvoy (18) and Bergeron (19) were credited with the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal as the Bruins pulled ahead, 3-2, at 3:50 of the third period.

Boston didn’t hold onto the lead for long, however, as Nashville responded on the scoreboard 2:36 later with a goal from their captain.

David Pastrnak misplayed the puck along the boards in his own zone– botching a flip pass in the process to Roman Josi’s lucky fortune as Josi (13) ripped a shot off of Ullmark’s glove and into the twine– tying the game, 3-3, in the process.

Philip Tomasino (7) tallied the only assist on Josi’s goal at 6:26 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Marchand made a big hit behind Nashville’s net, sending Fabbro down the tunnel briefly, clutching his shoulder.

Minutes later, Vaakanainen got his stick in the wrong place at the wrong time as Matt Duchene went sailing (perhaps partially of his own effort to draw a penalty).

Nevertheless, Vaakanainen cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping at 13:34.

The Bruins managed to kill off the ensuing minor, however, giving them a bit of a momentum swing as the minutes ran off the clock.

After 60 minutes, Boston and Nashville were knotted up on the scoreboard, 3-3, despite the B’s holding a, 41-28, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 13-11, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins dominated in blocked shots (12-7), while the Predators led in takeaways (7-6), hits (46-44) and faceoff win% (60-40) after regulation.

Both teams had nine giveaways aside as the Preds finished the afternoon 0/2 on the power play and the B’s went 1/1 (as there were no penalties called in the overtime period).

Cassidy started Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy in the extra frame, while Predators head coach, John Hynes, matched with Ryan Johansen, Duchene and Josi.

Duchene rang the a shot attempt off the crossbar early in overtime before Jake DeBrusk had a breakaway going the other direction.

DeBrusk too, however, rang the iron on Saros’ right side before dialing down the effort on the loose puck in the crease and gliding away amidst the chaos.

Less than a minute later, Hall (8) scored while fighting and falling for another loose puck on the doorstep after Pastrnak ripped a shot on goal.

Pastrnak (15) and Vaakanainen (4) had the assists on Hall’s game-winning overtime goal and the Bruins took a, 4-3, victory on home ice against Nashville as a result at 1:41 of the overtime period.

Boston left their own building leading in shots on goal, 44-29– including a, 3-1, advantage in overtime alone– while also leading in blocked shots (12-8) on Saturday afternoon.

Nashville finished the game leading in hits (46-45) and faceoff win% (61-39), while both teams wrapped up the effort with nine giveaways each.

The Bruins improved to 2-1 in overtime (3-2 past regulation overall) this season and the Predators fell to 5-2 in overtime (6-3 past regulation overall) as a result.

Boston also improved to 15-5-0 (8-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 16-0-0 (8-0-0 at home) when leading after one period and 3-2-0 (3-1-0 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22.

Nashville fell to 5-10-2 (3-5-2 on the road) when allowing the first goal, 2-10-1 (1-4-1 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 4-3-2 (3-1-2 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday and will retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 prior to the game in a ceremony that is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET. O’Ree and his family will attend virtually from their home in San Diego.

On Jan. 18, 1958, O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier as the first Black player to suit up in a game.

Though he only played in 45 career games in parts of two seasons with the Bruins, O’Ree had 4-10–14 totals and played– unbeknownst to the team at the time– blind in his right eye after suffering an injury in Junior hockey.

O’Ree spent many years in the minor leagues before and after his Bruins tenure in a career that spanned from 1950-51 through 1978-79.

Gary Bettman was named NHL Commissioner in 1993, and five years later, named O’Ree as an NHL Diversity Ambassador in 1998.

Together, O’Ree and the NHL have brought the game to thousands of kids that might have otherwise never had the chance to play or learn from one of the greatest figures in league history.

In 2018, O’Ree was finally inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the NHL created the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, which is presented annually to “an individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.”

Each year, fans submit candidates for the award with O’Ree (joined by the league) in narrowing the field to three finalists.

The award winner is ultimately determined by a fan vote with weighted votes from O’Ree, the NHL and presenting sponsor, MassMutual.

After retiring O’Ree’s No. 22 and playing the Hurricanes next Tuesday, Boston will also host the Washington Capitals next Thursday and Winnipeg Jets next Saturday before the Anaheim Ducks swing through town before the B’s hit the road on Jan. 26th in Colorado.