Outlined against a grey-cloudy New Year’s Day sky, the Four Horsemen looked on with the Hockey Gods as the Boston Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2, at Notre Dame Stadium in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
From now on in Bruins lore four names will replace Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Sean Kuraly and Brad Marchand instead as all four contributed the necessary amount of goals to secure the victory in the home of the Fighting Irish– in the first non-football sports event at the stadium in its history.
Kuraly’s game-winning goal came with 9:40 remaining in the third period and gave the Bruins their first lead of the afternoon, 3-2.
Temperature at puck drop was a balmy 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit as Tuukka Rask (10-8-2 record, 2.63 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 20 games played) turned aside 36 out of 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for Boston.
Chicago goalkeeper, Cam Ward (6-7-4, 3.85 GAA, .888 SV% in 18 GP), made 32 saves on 35 shots against for a .914 SV% in the Blackhawks loss.
The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 in their all-time Winter Classic record, while the Blackhawks stumbled to 0-4-0 in the NHL’s New Year’s Day tradition.
Boston also surpassed the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres in the standings with the win, improving to 22-14-4 (48 points) on the season– good enough for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings.
All three teams are in action Thursday night with the Bruins hosting the Calgary Flames, Buffalo hosting the Florida Panthers and Montreal hosting the Vancouver Canucks as the Atlantic Division playoff position battle rages on.
The Blackhawks, in the meantime, fell to 15-21-6 (36 points) on the season and remain 6th in the Central Division– two points ahead of the last place in the division, St. Louis Blues– heading on the road to take on the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Tuesday’s Winter Classic was the 26th regular season outdoor game in league history, 6th outdoor game for Chicago (1-5-0) and 3rd outdoor game for Boston (2-1-0) overall.
Prior to Tuesday’s Winter Classic, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy confirmed Brad Marchand’s return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s action with an upper body injury, as well as Charlie McAvoy‘s status out of the lineup.
McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve last Friday and may return to action in time for Thursday night’s matchup in Boston against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.
With David Backes serving the 2nd game of his thee-game suspension, Cassidy juggled the lines past his usual first line trio of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Cassidy’s second line featured Jake DeBrusk to the left of David Krejci and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson on Krejci’s right side, with Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the third line in addition to Joakim Nordstrom, Colby Cave and Noel Acciari rounding out the fourth line.
Once again, Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo were paired together on the blue line, with Torey Krug playing alongside John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk with Kevan Miller.
With Backes suspended and McAvoy out of the lineup due to a lower body injury, only Ryan Donato and Steven Kampfer took in the game from Notre Dame’s press box as Boston’s healthy scratches.
Rask got the start in net for his second career appearance (previous, 2016 at Gillette Stadium, 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens) in a Winter Classic game, as well as his 469th career game in a Bruins uniform– surpassing Cecil “Tiny” Thompson in franchise history for most games played as a goaltender.
He was the backup goaltender to Tim Thomas‘ impressive win in net in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
The atmosphere was palpable as the game got underway in front of a sellout crowd of 76,126 people in the 2nd most attended Winter Classic with a 1930s flair, as the visiting Bruins obtained the first penalty of the game early in the first period.
Carlo was sent to the box with a holding infraction against Jonathan Toews at 5:52 and Chicago couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.
In the vulnerable moment after the skater advantage, after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, David Kampf helped slide the puck from Dylan Sikura to Brendan Perlini (5) for the 1-0 lead thanks to Perlini’s one-timed shot past Rask as the Bruins defensive coverage was nowhere to be seen.
Krug had his stick lifted as Krejci was turning the puck over and Moore was out of position to the right of the net instead of attempting to thwart any chances through the slot.
Kampf (10) and Sikura (3) had the assists on Perlini’s goal at 8:30 of the opening period.
Thanks to Perlini’s goal, Chicago now has the game’s first goal in eight of their last ten games, despite the outcome of Tuesday afternoon’s matchup.
Artem Anisimov tripped Nordstrom at 12:05 and sent the Bruins on their first power play of the day– yielding a power play goal just 23 seconds on the skater advantage.
Bergeron worked the puck to Pastrnak (24) who then waited for Ward to make the first move as Pastrnak scored from point blank, tying the game, 1-1, at 12:38.
An elated Pastrnak spread his wings as part of his celebration, while Bergeron (20) recorded the only assist on the goal.
Pastrnak now has 11 power play goals this season and remains in the top-five in goals scored this season (tied with Jeff Skinner at 24 and trailing Alex Ovechkin, 29, and John Tavares, 26).
Late in the opening frame, Grzelcyk was guilty of high-sticking Chicago’s Andreas Martinsen and served a two-minute minor in the penalty box at 17:03.
The Blackhawks didn’t score on the ensuing power play.
After 20 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 1-1. Boston led in shots on goal (14-12) and takeaways (6-2) after one period, while Chicago held onto an advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (11-10) and face-off win percentage (53-47).
Both teams had five giveaways each entering the first intermission and the Blackhawks were 0/2 on the power play. The B’s were 1/1 after one.
Early in the second period, Kuraly hooked Perlini and gave Chicago their third power play of the day. Once again, the Blackhawks were unable to score as the Bruins killed off Kuraly’s minor.
Midway through the period, Erik Gustafsson fired a shot from the point that was redirected by Dominik Kahun (5) past Rask and into the net, giving the ‘Hawks a 2-1 lead at 11:24 of the middle frame.
Gustafsson (14) and Toews (20) had the assists on the goal for Chicago.
Moments later, Gustafsson was penalized for roughing Nordstrom and the Bruins went on the power play for the second time of the afternoon at 17:57.
Less than a minute into the power play, Bergeron (13) walked into the low slot without pressure and sent a backhand shot over Ward to tie the game, 2-2, at 18:48.
Pastrnak (26) and Krug (20) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal.
Just over a minute later– in the closing seconds of the second period– Grzelcyk hooked Patrick Kane at 19:50.
Chicago’s ensuing power play would spill over into the third period as both teams went back into the dressing room for the second intermission, tied, 2-2.
Through 40 minutes of play, Chicago was outshooting Boston, 21-20, and led in takeaways (8-7), hits (21-20), as well as face-off win% (56-44). The B’s led in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (9-7) heading into the third period.
The Blackhawks went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 through two periods.
Getting off on the right foot while resuming play on the power play in the third period was not Chicago’s specialty as Kane caught Miller with a high-stick at 1:03.
Less than a minute later, the 4-on-4 action became 4-on-3 when Anisimov tripped Miller at 1:42 of the third period.
For nine seconds, Boston had a 4-on-3 power play, then an abbreviated 5-on-3, followed by a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 power play. Despite the length and skater strength advantages, the Bruins did not convert on their extra skater opportunities early in the third.
Moments later, Gustav Forsling hooked Kuraly and the B’s couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing power play at 4:56.
Just past the midpoint of the third period, Kuraly (4) got his revenge on the scoreboard as a shot from the point bounced off Wagner and rebounded to No. 52 in black-and-gold before Kuraly tapped in a backhander into the open twine.
The Dublin, Ohio native then did his trademark “Kura-leap” into the glass, having given Boston their first lead of the day, 3-2, at 10:20.
Wagner (3) and Grzelcyk (10) had the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s goal.
The fourth liner now has three goals in his last five games.
With 1:38 remaining in regulation, Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, pulled Ward for an extra attacker. About 36 seconds later, after Bruins defender, Kevan Miller sent the puck off glass and out, Colliton used his timeout to rally his troops for Chicago.
Facing immense pressure on the heels of a big save and coverup from Rask, Cassidy used his timeout for Boston with 39.2 seconds left in regulation.
Finally, after Krejci worked to clear the the defensive zone and was tripped up at the blue line, Marchand (13) took the loose puck down the ice and buried an empty net goal to seal the deal on Boston’s, 4-2, win at 19:27.
Krejci (24) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, despite being outshot by the Blackhawks, 38-36. Boston finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (19-13), giveaways (12-10) and hits (30-25), while Chicago finished the day leading in face-off win% (56-44).
Entering Tuesday, the Blackhawks had five power play goals in their last three games. After Tuesday, the Blackhawks went 0/4 on the skater advantage in the Winter Classic and had five power play goals in their last four games.
The B’s finished the afternoon 2/5 on the power play.
Of note, Kuraly’s game-winning goal was his second straight game-winning goal as he had scored the overtime winning goal in Buffalo last Saturday.
And Pastrnak’s 1-1–2 totals in Tuesday’s affair made him the 6th Bruins player since 1984-85 to require 40 or fewer games to reach the 50-point mark in a season (with the most recent being Marc Savard scoring 50 points in 39 games in 2006-07).
Boston has now won five out of their last seven games.
For the 12th time in 26 outdoor games, the team that won overcame a deficit en route to victory.
The Bruins take on the Flames on Thursday back home at TD Garden, then play host to the Sabres on Saturday (Jan. 5th), the Minnesota Wild next Tuesday (Jan. 8th) and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.
Next year’s Winter Classic heads to the Cotton Bowl where the Dallas Stars will play host to an opponent that is to be determined by the Stars, NHL and NBC.