|Francona Wins Big in Return to Fenway||Connelly’s Top Ten: Rask Falls on Face||Bruins Lose 4-3 in OT as Rangers Fight to Stay Alive||For the Bulletin Board: Lundqvist’s “Lucky Bounces,” Savard’s “#ByeByeTorts”|
The Bruins looked to continue their unbelievable run as they journeyed into Phoenix on Wednesday night. The B’s are not just winning games lately, they’re dominating other hockey squads and making it look like they belong in a league of their own. After a rough start, they have gone 20-2-1 in their last 23 games, while outscoring opponents 97-36 over that stretch. It was the first time the Bruins have played in Arizona since 2009 and they made quite the impression.
The Bruins won 2-1 in overtime behind Tuukka Rask in net. He had been playing great as of late, including two straight shutouts in his last two starts, and he led the league in save percentage entering the game. The dynamic of swapping him and Tim Thomas regularly appears to be paying off significantly for the Bruins, who found a win in Phoenix despite lots of sloppy play and a relatively ugly game.
The Bruins wasted little time before resuming their incredible play after a holiday break. David Krejci took a shot through traffic in the opening minute to give the B’s an early 1-0 lead. It was his seventh of the season, and he now has a four game point streak amongst the many impressive offensive performances lately for Boston. For most of the first period the Bruins appeared significantly in control over Phoenix.
The Coyotes would make some noise before the first intermission of what had been a slow moving period as both teams searched for intensity. For Phoenix it came in the form of a beautiful goal by Ray Whitney who drove to the net and flickered one past Rask. With the game tied 1-1 things began to get heated between the two teams.
Coyotes player Raffi Torres elbowed Andrew Ference in the head, inviting Adam McQuaid to take a shot at Torres of his own. The two engaged in a one-sided fight that left Torres beaten badly, blood pouring down his face. Shortly after penalties were assessed the period came to a close with the teams set for an interesting second.
The Bruins and Coyotes shifted momentum in a tug of war match during the second period with plenty of offensive showing but minimal scoring. Ray Whitney forced Rask to make a diving save on the side of the net as the Bruins goaltender fell down but stood his ground. The Bruins actually had the momentum early in the frame, creating a multitude of scoring chances without finding the back of the net.
The Coyotes pulled momentum back into their favor as they maintained aggressive control of the puck. Their energy was great, and they were continuously attacking Tuukka Rask in net, all the while preventing Boston from developing any offensive threats. With 4:14 left in the period Johnny Boychuk was called for tripping, giving Phoenix a power play to work with.
Still showing good puck control in their attacking zone, the Coyotes looked poised for a late period goal to take the lead. Ray Whitney soared through the Bruins defense, which fell apart momentarily, creating open ice for him to skate freely toward the net. But Rask was ready for him, making a tremendous save as he extended his left pad outwards to make the stop. The Phoenix crowd showed signs of a heavy Boston audience multiple times in the second, notably after the Rask save prompted a loud “TUUKKA”. The period ended up scoreless, as the two teams headed for the third period still tied 1-1.
Early in the last period of regulation Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera made an amazing glove save against Brad Marchand which preserved the tie. That theme would continue to say the least. With much more physicality and puck movement by both sides early in the period, it seemed inevitable that someone would find the back of the net. However both goalies were showing some of their best stuff against an onslaught of offense.
The Bruins fired off seven shots within the first seven minutes of the period, including a flurry of chances with just over three minutes left. LaBarbera continued to amaze after a shaky start to the game. After Krejci’s opening minute goal it looked like he might be in for a long night, but he managed to rebound with a strong performance. Tuukka Rask matched his counterpart though, escaping a similar bundle of attacks from Phoenix as regulation came to a close.
The Bruins wasted little time in overtime before they walked out with a victory. 58 seconds into the extra period, Dennis Seidenberg took a shot around the middle of the attacking zone that redirected off the stick of Chris Kelly and finally through LaBarbera. The game itself was certainly lacking despite the strong performances of the goaltenders, as there was only one power play for either side and ten scoring oppotunities a piece. Either way it was enough for the win, as the Bruins continue to dominate the league. Next up are the Dallas Stars on New Year’s Eve.