The Boston Bruins got a pair of goals from rookie Frank Vatrano, back from missing the past several contests to injury, and a monster game in net from backup Jonas Gustavsson to stun the Detroit Red Wings on the road with a 3-2 victory in sudden death.
The hometown Wings carried the edge in play for most of the night, but Gustavsson kept them in it after surrendering Pavel Datsyuk’s 300th career NHL goal and another strike from Tomas Tatar in the second period that gave Detroit a 2-1 lead until 1:44 left in regulation.
Vatrano opened the scoring at 7:11 of the first period when he took a Joonas Kemppainen pass out near the high slot and buried a low shot past Petr Mrazek. Former Red Wing Landon Ferraro drew his second assist in as many games with the Bruins after being claimed on waivers Monday.
The goal happened in part because Zdeno Chara swept a rolling puck away from danger after Gustavsson got a piece of a Niklas Kronwall drive that squirted through and was headed for the goal line.
Datsyuk rifled home the equalizer at 2:26 of the middle frame when he took an Alexey Marchenko pass and put the puck past Gustavsson for his second goal of the year. Tatar then added to the lead with his seventh marker, assisted by Riley Sheahan and Darren Helm.
Boston was unable to get much going in the way of sustained offensive pressure and when Vatrano took a poorly-timed tripping call at 14:42 of the final period, it appeared that the B’s might be out of luck on a night when their goaltending was good enough despite a lack of scoring.
However, after killing off the Vatrano penalty, the B’s found life on a deliberate play that developed slowly through the neutral zone between David Krejci and Loui Eriksson. Without pushing the pace, the two passed the puck back and forth before Eriksson gained the zone and then backhanded a pass over to his right. Defenseman Colin Miller was trailing the play and stepped into it, blasting the puck past Mrazek and into the net off the far post to make it a 2-2 game.
In 3-on-3 overtime, the B’s survived some tense moments including a sequence when Eriksson lost his stick and then failed to clear it by kicking at the puck. Tatar nearly ended the game on an odd-man rush with a wide open net, but he heeled the pass and the puck went wide, setting the stage for an improbable duo of Matt Beleskey-Vatrano-Miller combination to win the game.
Beleskey gained the Detroit zone and curled near the left boards, protecting the puck and then dishing up to Miller who had just entered the zone and was out near the middle of the circles. He then made a perfect slap-pass on net, freezing Mrazek, who no doubt expected another “Chiller Driller” to come scorching in. Instead, Vatrano was cutting to the front of the net and he put his stick on the off-speed shot, deflecting it down and into the net for the game-winning score.
The Bruins upped their record to 12-8-1, moving into third place in the Atlantic Division on the night before Thanksgiving. Given how hard this team works despite not having an abundance of high-end talent, they’ve given the fans a lot to be thankful for.
Frank Vatrano- Back in the lineup, the East Longmeadow native tallied his first career two-goal game in the NHL. It’s not just his sublime release and otherworldly stick skills/killer instinct around the net, but he’s added a dimension of speed and is hustling all over the 200-foot sheet of ice. I said it on Twitter, but if you had told me back in March when the B’s signed the impressive 18-goal guy out of UMass that he would score 3 goals in his first 7 NHL *before* December 1st, I would’ve thought that was crazy talk. Vatrano, who previously attended Calgary Flames development camp before signing with Boston, is making anyone who doubted him including all 30 teams that skipped him in the draft three times, look like the ones who lost their marbles.
Jonas Gustavsson- He lived up to his nickname of the Monster tonight with another quality start. It’s obvious that the guy can play…the key to him going forward will be in maintaining his health, as injuries have been stumbling blocks for him in the past. He made some tough stops look pretty routine tonight, and as someone who subscribes to the “less is more” approach when it comes to goalies, that’s a good thing. He’s now 5-1, with a GAA of 2.15 and a save percentage of .920.
Colin Miller- Chiller posted the tying goal and an assist on the winning goal. He seems to be growing and developing by leaps and bounds with each game, as the confidence is getting larger. Sure, he’ll make the odd bad read or poor pinch, but he has the tools to make up for those missteps. He’s already contributing quite a bit at both ends as a raw rookie who saw his first NHL game back in October- just think how good he could be in another 2-3 years.
Claude Julien- Let’s give him credit on this one: is anyone going to say with a straight face that he hates young players when he rolled out a combo of Vatrano and Miller during 3-on-3 OT play along with Beleskey? For all the static he gets, he didn’t staple Vatrano to the bench after the youngster’s bad penalty late in the third period. He recognized that Vatrano and Miller, combined with Beleskey’s edge and energy might make for a good mix and the trio did not disappoint.
Pavel Datsyuk- 300 goals in a Hall of Fame career. At 37, he’s slowing down, but tonight, he showed why he’s been an NHL star for so long. Aside from the fact that the Bruins have been leading the league in allowing career milestones to be reached this season, Datsyuk found the back of the net with an understated, yet impressive strike that captured the essence of his elite hockey sense, talent and a penchant for making magic out of the mundane ever since he came over from Russia after being the 171st overall pick in 1998.
Ryan Spooner- Did not see much action in the final 10 minutes of regulation or overtime. For a player with his speed and skills, the team wants more from the 2010 second-rounder. Regardless of the less productive and successful performance at 5-on-5, Spooner has the ability to raise his game when challenged and has rebounded when sat down in the past. Sometimes we forget that he’s still just 23, and his 11 points in 21 contests is a little off his pace from a year ago, but when he’s on his game, there aren’t many more dangerous forwards on this team than No. 51.