Going into Sunday’s afternoon game at the TD Garden, the visiting San Jose Sharks were one of just eight teams that had not yet suffered a regulation loss early in the 2021-22 NHL season. That changed when the Boston Bruins won 4-3, but it was a win that came with a little bit of concern for the Black and Gold in the final seven-plus minutes of the game. Here are three takeaways from Boston’s third win in four games this season.
Bruins Did Not Finish Game Strong
Leading 4-1 entering the third period, the Bruins played a near-flawless first 12:50 of the period with their aggressive forechecking and held the Sharks without a shot on net until 7:10 left in the game. The final seven minutes is one that they would like to have back and honestly they are lucky to have won the game in regulation.
San Jose became the more aggressive team with their forecheck, which had the Bruins back on their heels and the Sharks took full advantage. Tomas Hertl deflected a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot past Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark after David Pastrnak failed to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Just 1:49 later, the Bruins were caught running around in their own end and it led to Timo Meier tipping a Logan Couture shot from the point past Ullmark to cut the deficit to 4-3. Ullmark finished the game with 23 saves, but he could not be faulted for either third-period goal allowed.
San Jose finished with 10 shots in the final 7:10 of the game on the net and spent nearly the entire time in the Bruins zone. It is not the way that Boston would like to close games going forward. Yes then got the two points with the regulation win, but efforts like the final seven-plus minutes going forward might end up costing the Bruins points in the standings.
Third Line Makes Impact
Before the game, it was announced that Nick Foligno was going to miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury and he was placed on Injured Reserve (IR). That meant that there was going to be another addition to the third line with Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk. Oskar Steen was called up for the game from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and slotted as the right wing.
With the Bruins holding a 3-1 lead in the second period, DeBrusk and Steen connected in an odd way to give the Black and Gold their second three-goal lead of the game. Steen collected a pass from defensemen Derek Forbort and his clear-in attempt to the Sharks zone hit DeBrusk and rolled ahead of him. The 24-year-old collected the puck and his wrist shot went over the shoulder of San Jose goalie Adin Hill and in the top right corner for a 4-1 lead.
It was DeBrusk’s second goal in his fourth game of the young season for the Bruins. Last season, the 2015 first-round pick scored one goal in his first 17 games and we all know how that season ended up playing out with just five goals in 41 games. Haula did not find his name on the scoresheet in the game, but the free-agent signing this offseason continues to do the little things. He finished the game with three shots on the net and valuable penalty-killing minutes, along with his usual strong back-checking efforts.
Bruins Win Special Teams Battle
For the third time in four games this season, the Bruins were perfect on the penalty kill as they successfully killed off both Sharks’ power play opportunities in the first period, which ended up being their only two chances. On the other side, the Bruins went 1-for-3, but that one ended up being the difference on the scoreboard at the end of 60 minutes.
The Bruins scored on their first power play opportunity when David Pastrnak ripped a slap shot from the left circle past Hill for a 3-0 lead. Going into the game, Boston was 1-for-6 with the man advantage in their first three games, so the sample size has not been much early in the season. They scored their first power play goal Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres when Charlie Coyle found the back of the net.
Boston’s penalty kill has been a big part of their success to begin the season in helping them secure six out of a possible eight points in the standings. In their loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 20, they allowed both of the power play goals they have given up, with one coming into an empty net in the final minute after the Black and Gold pulled Jeremy Swayman for an extra skater. So far, the Bruins have killed 14 of the 16 power plays their opponents have had.
In the end, the Bruins hung on over the final 7:10 to get the win against a Sharks team that made them earn the two points in regulation. The third-line was put together Sunday morning, but they turned out to make the difference with DeBrusk’s second-period goal, and Boston won the important special teams battle. Now the Bruins get ready for a three-game stretch this week with two games against the Florida Panthers and one against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.