EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers kept pushing, and pushing, with the Bruins holding on to a 3-2 lead late in the third period at Rexall Place on Thursday night.
"They’re a highly skilled team and you have to respect them," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
But the Bruins would hang on, with Jarome Iginla driving in the empty-netter from long-range to seal the 4-2 win, for Boston's fourth straight victory. They're undefeated on the road trip.
Boston had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, thanks to a Dennis Seidenberg point-shot, a laser from Iginla, and a shorthanded two-on-one tally from Brad Marchand, off a slick setup rom Patrice Bergeron.
Edmonton would go on to outshoot the Bruins 27-13 in the final 40 minutes, and 13-3 in the third period.
"That’s the most important thing, we had a one-goal lead going into the third period and we found a way to win," said Iginla, who notched two goals against his hometown team, with plenty of support from his family contingent, and plenty of Black & Gold in the stands.
"It was just one of those nights. It’s fun though, we’re only here once and I’m happy that they could all come out and support."
"Way better than if they didn't show up, eh?" Iginla laughed. "Come to town and they're not even interested, and you're giving out two, so it's way better."
The right winger now has three goals in his past three games, and eight on the season.
"We had a great start, we wanted to focus on that and make sure we did that and then you give the Oilers credit; they’re a dynamic young team and they create a lot of chances and when they start feeling it they can get it going," Iginla added.
"They turned it up and we played well but we also probably didn’t have the same legs that we’ve had at different times and we got ourselves in some penalty trouble and were finding a way to just win the game."
The Bruins had to kill two penalties in the third, when the Oilers (and their 12th ranked power play) were turning it on. Though Marchand had scored the eventual game-winner on Edmonton's man-advantage earlier in the contest, Boston had to spend nearly the entire penalty kills in their own end.
"They have such a good power play. You try to just taking away their shooting lanes and try to take away seams but they’re very skilled and they find those seams," said Boychuk, who helped out goaltender Chad Johnson with a big block, while hemmed in the zone for a minute and 25 seconds on the PK midway through the third.
"We managed to kill it off and that was probably a key kill for us."
Key, but tiring.
"You just have to take a couple deep breaths, but then you have to get back out there."
Heading into the matchup, the Bruins knew they would have their work cut out for them. Puck management was key, against one of the quickest teams they've faced this season. Give them speed, and space, and the Oilers can do damage.
"Being from Red Deer (Alberta) you always hear about the Oilers and their run and gun style and how they like to play," callup Matt Fraser had said pregame.
"I think we have the right team to match well against them and I think the important thing is making our presence felt in the first period and making sure we’re physical and kind of showing them we’re going to play Bruins hockey instead of Oilers hockey."
Although the Bruins, on paper, only had one decently strong period, the feeling in the room postgame wasn't that they shot themselves in the foot. Like, say, they did against Calgary, when they woke up in the third period after 40 minutes of not playing "Bruins hockey."
It was that the Oilers kept pushing, and pushing.
"They skated, they showed their skill level and they gave us a real tough game," said Julien. "So at the end, we were just hanging on."
"We have to be happy with it. We know we’re not going to put our best game on the ice every night but we want to keep building," said Marchand, who scored his first goal in six games. "Especially with the amount of injuries we have right now, every win is huge."
Flu Taking Its Toll
Boston plays a territorial style, a straight-ahead game that involves puck possession, hemming teams into the offensive zone. It's not a complicated game, but it's demanding.
And with several players on the team battling the flu that struck the team this week, the energy level just wasn't there at the end, like is usually is for the Bruins in the third period.
"The bench is short, just going with the health of our team right now and you can see that it was a matter of either winning in regulation, or I don’t think we would have found a way to win," said Julien.
"We were just fighting it," said Chad Johnson, who battled for 39 saves on 41 shots in his sixth win in seven starts as a Bruin.
Johnson was originally pegged for Tuesday's game in Calgary, but was battling the flu, so Tuukka Rask got the start. With Rask the one struck by the flu bug in Edmonton, Johnson was between the pipes.
It's the only position where the Bruins even have the "luxury" of an extra player right now, with Chris Kelly (broken right fibula, IR), Loui Eriksson (concussion, IR), Daniel Paille (upper body, undisclosed), Adam McQuaid (lower body, IR) and Dougie Hamilton (lower body) all injured. McQuaid is the only one of the group even on the trip.
"An extra player, and he’s not even at 100-percent," Julien had remarked, of Rask.
"We just have to play through it…just suck it up like we have to, and play through it."
Johnson Providing Just What Bruins Need
Chad Johnson is now 6-1-0 in his seven starts in the Spoked-B this season, with a .928 save percentage (Rask is at .935) and 1.98 goals-against average.
He stopped all 14 shots he faced in the first period, and all 13 from the Oilers in the third, to maintain the lead.
"He’s the reason, he kept us in there and just made the big saves when he had to with lots of traffic in front of him but he battled it," said Julien. "And gave us that opportunity to win this game."
"Johnny played well in there I think he had  shots or whatever against. That’s a lot higher than we usually take pride in giving up," said Iginla. "But the most important thing is we found a way to win a game that wasn’t perfect, or that pretty."
Seidenberg Takes Puck High
Just a minute into the third period, Dennis Seidenberg took a puck to the face, that deflected up and hit him after a block.
He didn't spend too much time hunched on the ice near Johnson's goal, with Bruins Athletic Trainer Don DelNegro. The defenseman skated off under his own power, shook it off on the bench, and finished out the game.
"He’s fine. He got the puck in the face, but he finished the game and I haven’t heard anything more than the puck in the face and a little swollen right now."
Seidenberg's face was pretty swollen, so much that it even made Johnny Boychuk's eyes widen when he saw the damage.
Boychuk is no stranger to the circumstance, as he has the scar near his left eye to prove it, having been hit by a slap shot. Even he felt for his fellow blueliner, who, no doubt, was probably happy there wasn't too much damage done.
Finding Ways to Win
Prior to Thursday night's game in Edmonton, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins had quite the quote on Boston. Opposing teams often offer praise to the Bruins and the "tough to play against" test that they pose.
"When I think about Boston, I just think about winning. Win. And it seems they're able to do it, however you want to play it," Eakins had said.
"You want to play big and nasty? Fine. You want to play with some skill? That's fine. Want to play a 6-4 game? Good. If you want to go 1-0, we'll do that, too. So they've got their team structured that they can play any game that you would like."
"They've got great discipline, they're very comfortable in any game, but their structure to their game is incredible, and how it's been over the last number of years."
On Thursday night, the Bruins got a 4-2 win, from a solid first period.
Boston has only had a handful of 60-minute performances, but they still currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 46 points.
"It's kind of the way we play. Like the first 40 minutes [against Calgary] we didn’t play our game, and then we decide to and it’s pretty effective and we ended up winning the game," said defenseman Matt Bartkowski. "And then against Pittsburgh, we just turned it up a notch for a couple minutes. So if we can sustain that for a whole game, it won’t be us finding ways to win. It will be more of us just overpowering and dominating teams."
Up Next: Canucks
The Bruins had the day off on Friday in Vancouver. They next face the Canucks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena. It will certainly be a time to reminisce for the Bruins, who are playing in Vancouver for the first time since June 15, 2011.
The Canucks will be on the second leg of a back-to-back, after hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.
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