Krejci Gets a Rest, But Bruins Don't Get Desired Outcome in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, MN - With four games left in the regular season, David Krejci got the night off on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, as the Bruins begin to rest up before the rapidly approaching postseason.
Opting to give Krejci rest, the Bruins had to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in the lineup. Torey Krug played most of the game at forward, on the left wing with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. Corey Potter slotted in on defense. Milan Lucic played with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
"We’ll still get to do what we want to do here, so just a matter of putting that puzzle together with four games left and go with it," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had said pregame, of implementing their rest plan with Iginla out of the lineup.
Still, while the Black & Gold didn't have all hands on deck, they weren't pleased with the outcome at the end of 60-plus minutes, only picking up a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
"I thought we were a little sloppy tonight," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "We weren’t very sharp - our passes and our playmaking and, you know, we didn’t have everybody really playing that well."
"Some of our better players were just very average, so it wasn’t a great game but we came out of here with a point so I guess, with what we expect out of our team and the way we played tonight, I think we should be happy with a point."
The game didn't start out perfectly for Boston, who found themselves down a goal just 1:05 into the first, when Jason Pominville scored on the power play.
But the Bruins answered back on a man-advantage of their own just 1:55 later, with Reilly Smith blasting in a shot from the slot through traffic that found its way through with his first goal since March 17, which also came against Minnesota.
"He’s coming around and I’ve felt it now for a little over a week," said Julien, of the first full year NHLer finding his scoring touch again. "And he seems to be turning the corner."
Smith was part of the only line intact for the night, along with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, who extended his career-best point streak to 12 games with a goal that put the Bruins up 2-1 midway through the first. He's put up 10 goals and six assists in that span.
The Wild kept pushing in the first, though, with Pominville earning his second of the game to tie it up, 2-2, heading to the second.
After 16 minutes of scoreless action, Boston broke through for the 3-2 on the power play, with a double deflection from Loui Eriksson and Gregory Campbell off Zdeno Chara's shot from up top. Eriksson's ninth of the season looked to set up the Bruins for a usually dominant third period effort in which they so often impose their pace on the opponent.
But the Wild had extra fire in their legs, despite playing their third game in four nights and the second leg of their back-to-back. Before the final frame, the team found out Columbus' 4-3 overtime win over Phoenix had helped them clinch a playoff berth. One point against Boston would cement them in the top Wild Carl spot.
"The message was, 'Let's not back our way into anything,'" said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo. "What a better way to do that than against a team like Boston."
"Sure there was [desperation] - the quicker you can clinch, the better it is, and to me, I was really impressed with the effort, especially in the third period," said Julien, of Minnesota. "You want to clinch and you find that energy somewhere, and I thought they had pretty good energy there in the third period."
Boston outshot the Wild 7-5 in the third, but Tuukka Rask had to be on his game. With Ilya Bryzgalov pulled, and an extra attacker on, Ryan Suter found a way past with just 1:05 left in regulation to tie the game at 3-3.
"You don’t like to lose games, especially in the last minute of the regular time but in a situation like that, we had them and we had to play them better so it shouldn’t happen next time," said Chara. "We didn’t defend until the end."
As has been the case the past few weeks, Julien has been rolling his bench to not only get players in different situations, but to manage ice time. That includes the final minute of regulation.
"It’s definitely a little different, guys in different spots and guys not in the lineup," said Smith. "But at the end of the day, when it comes to playoffs, there’s going to be injuries and there’s going to be stuff that happens — people are going to get knocked out of games so you've got to learn how to roll with the punches and be able to get points out of these games."
"It’s tough losing in the last minute, having to push for overtime and then not being able to close it out in the shootout. It bites a little bit, but the biggest thing is to have a short memory."
With just three games remaining now in the regular season, the Bruins still picked up a point and sit atop the League with 114 points. St. Louis is at 111, with Anaheim at 110.
Aside from any Presidents' Trophy race, Boston wanted the extra point.
"It’s pride and I think there’s so much talent in this dressing room as well that it doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup," said Smith.
"I think we have people that can win a game against any team in the league, even if we’re missing four or five guys. We definitely had an opportunity to win the game and it’s tough to see it slip through our fingers."
"We expect to win every game; I think that's just who we have in this locker room," said Krug, who knew going into the game he'd have to play some shifts at forward and some time on defense.
"Just being open-minded and going out there and understanding the system and having fun with it," he said of the new role for the night, which he hadn't been in since Bantam. "It’s tough. I give the forwards a lot of credit - you have a lot of respect for them, moving up and down the ice, and you get winded at times and I think the battles along the wall are huge, especially in our own zone."
"You've got to make sure you’re strong on the puck and you’re getting the puck out; it takes a lot of discipline to be a forward."
It may have been a unique situation - by necessity - for Krug and the Bruins, but they wouldn't point to that as any reason for the outcome, especially with the possibility of a similar lineup situation in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
"We have a lot of guys who can fill in spots and we still have a chance to win hockey game," said Krug. "I think we’re pretty strong in our depth, and we’re excited about moving forward and getting on to the next game."