By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It was as if the Boston Bruins knew that their fans back home were watching a 2:45 a.m. local time puck drop with heavy eyes, as they scored three goals in a 1:55 span in the first period of a 4-3 shootout win over the Calgary Flames in Shenzhen.
Bringing the majority of their projected NHL squad overseas for the 2018 O.R.G NHL China Games, the scoring was opened up with third-line center hopeful Trent Frederic beating the Flames’ Jon Gillies. Ryan Donato, playing right wing, added Boston’s second goal of the night just 1:19 later, and John Moore activated to contribute a goal of his own just 36 seconds later.
I mean, if we’re being honest, that scoring stretch featured just about everything you wanted for Preseason Game 1.
You’re talking about one of the third-line centers making an immediate impact on the scoreboard in Frederic. And not to be outdone, it was a great play from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in the defensive zone that really sparked the Donato goal the other way. Jack Studnicka — the other player considered to be in this three-prospect race for a third-line center — did his part to adapt to an NHL game, too, and took the body against James Neal in the first period. Because why the hell not?
Donato, meanwhile, found a seemingly instant result in his move back to right wing. While the Bruins made a ton about Donato playing the right side — and basically told everybody that’d listen that they would prefer not to play the young sniper there — Donato didn’t look to struggle in this role, and he and Jake DeBrusk showed an ability to move all over the ice. They did this without the projected No. 2 center (David Krejci), too, which is only a positive when it comes to their potential as a line. (And Donato, for what it’s worth, looked perfectly capable in such a position after a summer of prepping for that possibility.)
Moore, meanwhile, has come to Boston on a five-year deal worth just under $14 million in all. Given that the long-term picture will probably require the Bruins moving on from Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk to maximize Moore’s impact on the Black and Gold, Moore showing some semblance of an offensive flair can go a long way when it comes to buying in on his impact.
The biggest takeaway from this win, however, undoubtedly has to come back to the performance of Jaroslav Halak.
Signed to be a backup that pushes Tuukka Rask to be even better in the regular season and beyond, Halak was up to task, with countless sensational stops against the Flames, and with over 30 saves in regulation despite missing a significant stretch in the third period for an unspecified reason. One of the things that Halak was exceptionally good at was limiting the damage and trouble in and around the front of his crease, as his awareness routinely kept the Bruins out of legitimate trouble.
But Halak’s luck ultimately ran out when the Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 and protecting a one-goal lead in the final two minutes of the third period following a David Backes roughing penalty and bench minor all in one.
The 33-year-old Halak did his job to keep the Bruins in there, with poised saves — even with Johnny Gaudreau challenging him — but it was with just over 40 seconds left in the period that Mark Giordano finally connected for the game-tying strike.
Gifted an overtime power-play opportunity, the Bruins rang post behind a David Pastrnak one-timer and came close on a rebound that floated out to Donato all alone, but could not beat the Flames’ Gillies for the deciding tally.
Ultimately pushed to a shootout, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk scored in the top of the first round, while the Bruins did not counter with a goal of their own until Brad Marchand forced extra rounds with his snipe in the bottom of the third round.
Given another chance to put a win on Boston’s stick, Halak then came through with a stop on Derek Ryan in the top of the fourth before DeBrusk sealed the deal by going blocker-side on Gillies.
The Bruins will continue their preseason slate Sunday at TD Garden, as the club’s ‘domestic’ squad that remained in Boston will skate against the Washington Capitals. The China squad, meanwhile, will end their trip with yet another head-to-head with the Flames on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. That game can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.