Claude Julien was talking about the pending breakthrough of a snakebitten sniper when, after a monster victory by his club Tuesday night, he said: “Sometimes you just feel it.”
Really, the Boston Bruins coach could have been referencing a few things floating around the TD Garden air before David Pastrnak ended his team’s four-game losing skid by snapping an even more miserable streak of his own.
His overtime winner, which he whizzed home on a one-timer over the glove of Jared Coreau, ended a 17-game dry patch for the right winger and capped a 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the Detroit Red Wings.
The tally was the 20-year-old’s 20th of the season and, surely, No. 21 won’t be so elusive.
“Hopefully it gets that monkey off his back,” said Julien, who noted Pastrnak was skating well and showing jam all game. “I think he’s been feeling the pressure and hopefully that’s a step in the right direction.”
The same sentiment could apply to the entire team.
Genuine desperation is sometimes in short supply during the dog days of the NHL season, but there was no mistaking the urgency in Boston. The B’s—who haven’t had much luck on their side all year—have been mired in a taxing run, losing games of all types with far too much frequency.
Whether close affairs (like a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday), blowouts (like a 5-1 setback to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday) or back-and-forth contests that eventually tip the wrong way (like a 6-5 overtime loss to these same Red Wings last Wednesday), nothing has been going right for Boston.
The sad script seemed to be holding on Tuesday as the Bruins took it to Detroit, yet found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-2 score after 40 minutes.
“I’m not gonna lie, it was a frustrating game,” said Julien. “You see your team doing so many good things and, again, you’re not being rewarded as much as you should and yet every little breakdown ended up in the back of our net.”
That was certainly true in the first period, when Detroit failed to register a shot through half the frame. Then, defenceman Mike Green exploited a crack of daylight up the ice and hit left winger Andreas Athanasiou in full flight. The latter made no mistake in his one-on-one encounter with Tuukka Rask, burying on a beautiful forehand deke.
When Tomas Tatar’s second-period shot from in close trickled through Rask to give Detroit a one-goal advantage, it seemed like the breaks might be against Boston again. But the Black and Gold managed to channel their angst in a positive direction.
“I think there was some frustration going into the third, but the right kind of frustration,” said Julien. “Like ‘Enough is enough.’”
Anyone who didn’t feel that way wasn’t likely to see much ice given the bench boss’s state of mind.
“There was no way we were going to let anybody drag us down tonight,” Julien said. “If certain guys wouldn’t have done the job, they would have been watching.”
Marchand certainly exhibited the right kind of spirit on his game-tying marker when he spun around the net, found a loose puck and backhanded in his second of the game. The energy carried through to his celebration, as Marchand exploded with emotion.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” he said. “We need every point. We have to realize the situation we’re in. We’re playing pretty well, but we need to start getting wins regardless of how we’re playing.”
Indeed, the Bruins, who have completed 51 games—as many as any other club in the league—began the evening on the wrong side of the playoff picture. A loss to one of the teams chasing them would have been another blow for a proud squad that, on one hand, has trips to the Stanley Cup Final in its relatively recent past, yet has also missed the post-season dance the past two springs. Avoiding a third will require more of what the Bruins displayed against Detroit.
“Those first wins are never easy after you’ve lost a lot of games,” Julien said. “When you get tired of losing, you do something about it. I think, tonight, our guys had that determination.”