David Krejci (three assists) had a three-point night and Tuukka Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a, 5-2, victory over the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at TD Garden.
With the win, Rask (14-8-3 record, 2.42 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 25 games played) tied Tiny Thompson for the most career wins in Bruins franchise history as he earned his 252nd win in a Boston sweater.
Rask made 28 saves on 30 shots against for a .933 SV% on Thursday night en route to victory.
Blues goaltender, Jake Allen (15-15-4, 3.04 GAA, .897 SV% in 36 GP), stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced for an .846 SV% in the loss.
St. Louis is now 4-1-1 in their last six road games as Boston rebounded from a, 4-3, loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center.
The B’s improved to 17-4-3 when scoring first this season and are now 27-16-5 (59 points) overall on the season– good enough to remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division. The Blues fell to 20-21-5 (45 points) and remained in 6th place in the Central Division.
Bruce Cassidy inserted David Backes back into the lineup Thursday alongside Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly on the third line (with Kuraly centering and Backes on the right wing).
Cassidy also put John Moore back alongside Kevan Miller on the third defensive pairing, but after the two were on the ice for both St. Louis goals, the Bruins head coach limited their time on ice for the third period– sitting both defenders for about the final 15 minutes of action.
As a result of his lineup decisions, Matt Grzelcyk and Noel Acciari joined Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches for Boston on Thursday, while Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remains out of the lineup due to injury.
David Pastrnak was guilty of the game’s first infraction, receiving a high-sticking minor penalty at 7:53 of the first period for catching his stick up high on Blues defender, Joel Edmundson.
St. Louis did not convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.
Late in the opening period, after being on the receiving end of a couple of big hits– including one on Charlie McAvoy— Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, decided he’d take matters into his own hands to defend his teammates who were taking a bit of a beating in the physical department.
Chara dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs with Patrick Maroon at 17:30 of the first period and successfully got the take down to the eruption of the home crowd.
It was the first fight of the season for No. 33 in black-and-gold (Chara last fought on March 1, 2018) and his 1,452 career NHL game– surpassing Teemu Selanne for 3rd all-time among European born NHL players.
Jaromir Jagr (1,733 career NHL games played) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564 games) rank 1st and 2nd all-time ahead of Chara.
The Bruins and Blues went into their dressing rooms for the first intermission tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard.
Boston held the advantage in shots on goal (13-9) after one period of play, while St. Louis led in giveaways (11-3) and hits (17-8). Both teams had four blocked shots each, five takeaways each and were 50-50 in face-off win percentage through 20 minutes of play.
The Blues were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Peter Cehlarik got his stick between the legs of Ryan O’Reilly and tripped up the St. Louis forward. Cehlarik was sent to the sin bin with a minor penalty for tripping at 1:01 of the second period.
St. Louis did not convert on their second skater advantage of the night.
Shortly after killing off Cehlarik’s minor, Boston capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Krejci found Torey Krug (5) wide open in the slot where the B’s defender had worked his way in to send a wrist shot past Allen, giving the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 3:31.
Krejci (28) and Cehlarik (1) notched the assists on Krug’s first goal in 13 games.
The young Boston defenseman now has 20 points in his last 20 games, while Cehlarik has three points (two goals, one assist) in his first two games this season after making his 2018-19 season debut Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Just 52 seconds after Boston got on the scoreboard first, St. Louis responded with a goal of their own.
O’Reilly (17) pocketed one on a mostly empty net as Rask made the initial couple of saves– including one in desperation– while his teammates were scrambling in their own zone.
Jordan Kyrou (2) and David Perron (18) recorded the primary and secondary assists on O’Reilly’s goal as the Blues tied it, 1-1, at 4:23 of the second period.
Boston descended into a bit of a lull in the middle frame as St. Louis emerged as a more dominant team in possession and shots on goal through the second period.
Carl Gunnarsson (1) ripped a shot past Rask’s glove side after another defensive breakdown in the Bruins own zone led to the first lead change of the night as the Blues took the lead, 2-1, at 13:36.
Jaden Schwartz (17) and Brayden Schenn (16) had the assists on Gunnarsson’s first goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, Robert Bortuzzo cross-checked Sean Kuraly and was penalized at 14:03.
The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night, entering Thursday with the 2nd best power play completion percentage in the league at 28%, despite going 1/4 against the Flyers on Wednesday.
Late in their skater advantage, Chara blasted a shot from the point that deflected off of Backes (5) and into the net behind Allen while Backes was taking the brunt of a check in front of the goal.
Backes’ goal tied the game, 2-2, at 16:00 of the second period and was assisted by Chara (3) and Krejci (29).
Wagner took a quick trip to the penalty box for (wait for it) tripping Schwartz at 16:40, but the ensuing power play for the Blues was short lived as St. Louis was penalized for too many men on the ice at 18:11.
After about 25 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Bruins would have an abbreviated power play that’d barely extended into the third period. Spoiler alert, Boston did not convert on the abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.
Entering the second intermission, the game was tied, 2-2, and the Bruins led in shots on goal, 21-20, despite being outshot by St. Louis, 11-8, in the second period alone.
The B’s led in blocked shots (12-7) and face-off win% (59-41) after two periods, while the Blues led in takeaways (12-10), giveaways (14-8) and hits (23-19).
Since there were no penalties called in the third period, St. Louis finished the night 0/3 on the power play after 40 minutes, while Boston went 1/2.
Early in the third period Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson sent Wagner in the offensive zone on a breakaway as the Bruins winger pulled ahead of Alex Pietrangelo and charged towards Allen.
Wagner (6) dangled the puck to his backhand, fooling Allen and forcing the Blues goaltender to commit to his right side, before pulling the puck back to his forehand and scoring on a largely open net to put the Bruins ahead, 3-2.
Forsbacka Karlsson (5) had the only assist on Wagner’s goal at 5:27 of the third period.
About eight minutes later, Brad Marchand (18) found a rebound on his stick and put it in the back of the twine to give Boston a two-goal lead, making it, 4-2 at 13:12.
McAvoy (11) and Patrice Bergeron (26) had the assists on the goal after Bergeron won the face-off in the offensive zone and McAvoy wrapped around the net and fired the shot that rebounded off of Allen’s pads to Marchand’s stick for the goal.
With about 3:20 remaining in regulation, Craig Berube pulled his netminder for an extra skater in a last ditch effort to score two quick goals and tie the game.
After a stoppage with 1:46 remaining, Berube used his team’s timeout, but it was too little, too late.
Kuraly (6) fixed what Wagner couldn’t complete on two chances on the empty net in Boston’s offensive zone (Wagner almost pulled a Patrik Stefan— look it up, it’s worth your time).
Krejci (30) and Wagner (5) collected the assists on Kuraly’s empty net goal that made it, 5-2, at 19:08.
At the final horn, Boston had beaten St. Louis, 5-2, despite being outshot, 30-27.
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (15-11) and face-off win% (54-46), while the Blues led in giveaways (25-13) and hits (29-23).
Rask improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts with the win and will likely get the start in Boston’s next game.
The Bruins take on the New York Rangers Saturday night on home ice in their final game before going on their bye week and the All Star break. David Pastrnak is the only representative from the team with the spoked-B at the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend festivities at SAP Center in San Jose this year.
Boston resumes play after the break on Tuesday, January 29th against the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden before closing out the month of January with another home game on the 31st against the Flyers.