By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Late in the third period Saturday was no time for the Bruins to concede that they weren’t going to score a power-play goal against the Canadiens.
So with time running short and the Bruins’ sixth man-advantage of the game winding down, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who treats the power play as though its results reflect whether he’s a personal success or failure, decided to alter the Bruins’ usual plan.
Instead of going for a line change with the other four skaters on what’s considered the Bruins’ No. 1 power-play unit, Krug stayed on the ice with four skaters from the No. 2 unit. The result was a couple scoring chances from the 26-year-old and then the key play salvaged the game for the Bruins.
Krug made a slap pass from the high slot to the right circle to Nick Holden, who made a slap pass of his own to the slot for Jake DeBrusk’s tip that tied the score 1-1 with 10 seconds left in the power play and 2:45 left in regulation. The Bruins went on to win 2-1 on Brad Marchand’s goal at TD Garden.
Krug typically has the green light from coach Bruce Cassidy to stay on the ice if he feels he’s needed for the full two minutes of a penalty. Cassidy said usually Krug makes the right decision and other times “I’ve yelled at him to get off.” With Charlie McAvoy missing because of an injury and the Bruins nearly buried by the frustration of five fruitless power plays, including two earlier in the third period, Krug made the right choice.
“I didn’t want to come off,” said Krug who also assisted on Marchand’s goal and now has 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) in 59 games. “And it’s just that’s something I take a lot of pride in, being a guy on the power play. And it’s obviously fun to score goals but when you’re not doing it, it can be very frustrating. So I knew eventually we’d get through with the firepower we have. So at that point, I saw the guy [Montreal forward Nicolas Deslauriers] lose his stick and it was just pound pucks on net and let our guys outnumber them in front because there’s a guy that’s just floating around out there.”
With McAvoy out and the Bruins spending a lot of the game a man up, Krug led Boston in ice time at 24:46 (1:11 more than usual ice-time leader Zdeno Chara). Krug’s extra work could’ve gone to waste had he not made a second pivotal decision after opting to stay on the ice beyond his usual shift.
Krug blasted a shot from the high slot that was blocked by Byron Froese at 17:05, and five seconds later Krug ripped a shot that Antti Niemi stopped as one of his 48 saves. Given a third opportunity to take aim at the goal, Krug decided it was time to become playmaker. Froese had committed to attempting another blocked shot, so he was late diving into the passing lane after Krug opted for the slap pass to Holden.
“That last one, I was probably going to shoot it if that guy [Froese] didn’t come over to me. And that guy slid into my lane,” Krug said. “He actually almost made a great play with the stick, so if you’re always a threat to shoot, it forces them to lose coverage elsewhere and that’s been something that I’ve always tried to do. And tonight obviously it worked out for us in the end. …
“It’s more instinctual than anything. It was obviously a big moment in the game and I took a couple swings at it and it wasn’t going in for me so I was going to let someone else do it.”
Krug didn’t care who scored the game-tying goal, but he was invested in making sure he was on the ice when it was scored. That’s the type of personal accountability that resonates with a young team and is becoming a key characteristic for the Bruins.
If the power play’s earlier failures weren’t frustrating enough, Krug had been on the ice for the lone Montreal goal and failed to stop Brendan Gallagher from getting off a wicked shot off the rush after a Kevan Miller giveaway. Krug and the Bruins had a long time to lament the mistakes made on that play but eventually responded on the scoreboard.
“I think in the third period I turned to some of the guys and the thought process was ‘we’re not going to let one goal beat us. Eventually, it’s going to go in for us and when we do get one we’ll get the second one,’” Krug said. “It was staying patient with our game and trusting that we’re a deeper team than they are and our firepower would pull through. Obviously, we did.
“It can definitely be frustrating when you get scored upon early and you go almost 50 minutes or so with nothing happening. But we just weren’t going to be denied.”
And the Bruins weren’t denied thanks in large part to the quick thinking of Krug.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.