From the day the NHL announced its schedule, you knew this one was going to be special. Boston Bruins forward David Backes returned to the city where he played for ten seasons and served as team captain for the last five years and to say it meant a lot to him and his Boston teammates would be an understatement.
After Boston’s pre-game skate Tuesday morning, Backes acknowledged that this would not be just another game on the schedule.
“The two points (in the standings) is most critical on our minds,” Backes said. “It’s part of the season where it’s time to make a move and it starts with my old teammates. Outside of that, I want to live in the moment, enjoy every second of it.”
The Bruins secured those two points by defeating the Blues 5-3.
Brad Marchand celebrated his selection to the 2017 Atlantic Division All-Star team by scoring two goals and an assist to lead Boston. Linemate David Pastrnak assisted on three goals. Torey Krug and Frank Vatrano added a goal and an assist each in the win.
Vatrano opened the scoring with his third goal of the season with the Bruins on the power play 8:19 into the game. With Boston applying heavy pressure in the St. Louis zone, the puck squirted out towards the blue line where Krug out-skated two Blues players to the puck then sent a cross-ice pass (left to right) to Vatrano, who put a low shot past St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen’s glove to give his club a 1-0 lead. Pastrnak also garnered an assist.
Brandon Carlo added to the lead with his third goal of the year at the 15:20 mark with what may be the easiest and flukiest one he will ever score. David Krejci won a faceoff in the neutral zone and moved the puck to Vatrano, who rushed it into the St. Louis zone along the right wing boards. He pulled up at the half-wall and fed the puck to Carlo at the blue line. The defenseman unleashed a shot that hit the ends boards to Allen’s left. The puck rebounded off the boards onto the back of the net where it slid half-way up the net and out to the crease where it hit the back of Allen’s skate before landing in the net. The goal gave Boston a 2-0 lead while Krejci’s assist gave the centerman 499 career NHL points.
Marchand increased the Bruins lead to 3-0 at 17:52 of the period assisted by Patrice Bergeron, who sent a pass through the neutral zone to Pastrnak. Pastrnak, standing at the St. Louis blue line, took the disc over the line and moved it across the ice to Marchand. Marchand skated toward Allen uncontested and put a high wrist shot over Allen’s glove. It was the 14th goal of the season for the Boston winger.
The Bruins took that 3-0 lead into the dressing room along with an 11-2 shot advantage.
The second period began with a change in the Blues’ crease. Carter Hutton replaced Allen and unfortunately for the St. Louis backup, Boston began the period on the power play. One that Krug took advantage of 1:31 into period when he collected a cross-ice pass from Ryan Spooner, who dug the puck out of a scrum of players in front of the Boston bench before threading the pass to Krug. Krug moved into the top of the right faceoff circle and sent a hard wrist shot over Hutton’s glove, off the crossbar and into the net, giving the Bruins a 4-0 lead. It was the second goal of the season for the blue liner. Marchand also garnered the secondary assist by poking the puck toward Spooner.
The Blues were finalists in last Spring’s Western Conference playoffs and showed why they came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Final by exhibiting their never-say-die attitude which resulted in a power play goal by defenseman Colton Parayko just 2:06 after Krug’s goal. Jaden Schwartz took a pass in the slot from Parayko, who was on the half-wall, Schwartz sent a pass back to the right point onto David Perron’s stick. Perron skated toward the middle of the blue line and passed back to Parayko who had rotated down to the right point. Parayko gathered Perron’s pass and unleashed a wrist shot that made its way past Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who attempted to block the shot, and into the top left corner of the net. The goal cut Boston’s lead to 4-1.
Despite Boston putting 16 shots on Hutton, only Krug was able to dent the twine. Parayko’s goal was the only one of the period for St. Louis, who sent nine pucks at Rask.
Backes’ night got a little more interesting at the 15:34 mark of the second period when he dropped the gloves with former teammate, Joel Edmundson after Backes’ linemate David Krejci took a cross-check in the back then fell awkwardly into two Blues players. For his standing up for his new teammate, Backes was not only assessed a five-minute fighting penalty but also had to serve a two-minute instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for a total of 17 minutes spanning the end of the second period and most of the third period.
The third period saw both teams generate more offense.
Patrik Berglund scored his eighth of the year at the 10:14 mark of the period with his club on the power play. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo sent a quick pass from deep in the Blues zone up to Perron, who was in the neutral zone. Perron carried the puck into Boston territory to the right faceoff circle. He moved it back to Berglund, who put a wrist shot just over Rask’s glove to make it a 4-2 game with plenty of time remaining for the Blues to come back.
Marchand’s second goal of the game, fifteenth of the season, into an empty net at 18:43 of the period assisted by Pastrnak and Bergeron appeared to have put the final nail into the St. Louis coffin, however, the Blues are the Blues and
Kyle Brodziak scored his sixth goal of the season with 29 seconds to play in the final period. He put a behind-the-back centering pass from Scott Upshall behind Rask to close out the night’s scoring.
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien, as expected, expressed satisfaction with the victory
“We played a solid game and every time we thought there’d be a strong push, we pushed harder.” Julien said.
And how did Backes view his homecoming, which included a video presentation early in the first period to commemorate his years with the Blue Note on his chest.
“It was special,” said a grateful Backes. “Certainly something I’ve never experienced before. It was great to be back in the building and thankfully, we jumped out to a decent lead because I was trying to bottle up everything that was going on on the ice. It was tough, no question about it and the guys played amazing and we were able to get two points out of the game. I had the best seat in the house (penalty box) for most of the third period but, you know, it’s part of the game.”
Boston will finish the four-game road trip in Nashville versus the Predators Thursday night (8:00 pm ET; TVA Sports, SNO, FS-TN, NESN, NHL.TV)
St. Louis will play at Los Angeles Thursday (10:30 pm ET; SN, SN360, FS-W, FS-MW, NHL.TV)
With the win, Boston improved to 2-0-1 on the current road trip and improved to 22-17-5 overall. They are in second place in the Atlantic Division. They lead third-place Ottawa by three points and trail first-place Montreal by seven points.
St. Louis fell to 21-15-5. They are the Central Division’s third-place team. The Blues trail second-place Minnesota by eight points.
Boston is 3-1-1 in their last five road games.
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left the game in the second period after a heavy collision with a Blues forward, did not return to the game. After the game, coach Julien said he was being evaluated by the team doctor and did not have an update.
Brad Marchand, extended his point streak to four games (five goals, two assists). He is 13th in NHL scoring with 38 points on 15 goals and 23 assists.
The contest in St.Louis was Marchand’s 498th career NHL game.
Earlier in the day, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was named to the Atlantic Division All-Star team with Marchand.
Rask is third in the League with 21 wins. leads the NHL with 13 road wins. He also carries a .934 save percentage and a 1.83 goals against average away from Boston.
Vladimir Tarasenko will represent St. Louis in the All-Star tournament in Los Angeles.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.