By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
I'm not going to lie to you: I absolutely saw a loss flash before my eyes when Brad Marchand deferred the shot on a pretty-looking power-play pass from Matt Grzelcyk with 38 seconds left in the third period and the Bruins down by a goal.
It was hard to imagine the Bruins somehow getting a better look than the one fed to their best (active) sniper. But Marchand's decision to toss it back to Grzelcyk, and Grzelcyk's bomb of a shot for a game-tying tally matched by a Patrice Bergeron game-winner just 30 seconds later, confirmed the obvious that this group is simply on another level right now.
Yeah, yeah, the Panthers stink, and Roberto Luongo choking on TD Garden ice is as predictable as lousy Smarch weather.
But it speaks to the point that this team is so on-point that even the largely-forgettable nights and questionable decisions find a way to end up working in the Black and Gold's favor by the final horn.
"I love that about the guys: They play for one and other every night," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "It’s not always perfect, but they’re great that way, and they’re happy for each other. You don’t see that in every team, trust me. Some guys are not happy for others. They want to be the guy, and I think our guys are genuinely happy for each other’s success."
And for the time in as many games, the Bruins were able to erase a two-goal deficit and turn it into a victory.
"We could have crumbled [after Florida's third goal] but we stuck with it and we found a way," said Bergeron.
"It’s in our DNA now that we just don’t give up," Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask said. "We go about our business and just battle until the end and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that itself is a special thing when you just don’t give up you keep plugging away and know that the good things are going to happen when you do that."
It's a quality that makes this team a must-watch on a nightly basis, but more importantly, kept their point streak intact against the odds.
Here are some other random thoughts and notes from a 4-3 final at TD Garden...
Bruins dodging bullets left and right on Krejci line... for now
In what has become an undeniable theme of their season, the Bruins managed to lose a pair of second-line wingers in less than 48 hours.
Deadline pickup Marcus Johansson was the first to go down, as he was knocked out of Tuesday's head-to-head on a vicious hit from the Hurricanes' Micheal Ferland, and then Jake DeBrusk struggled to get through Wednesday's practice before he was ruled out following a Thursday morning optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena.
That left David Krejci with Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman as his wingers, and while the trio did their best in a 4-3 win, it feels worth mentioning that this really isn't a sustainable plan for the B's second line down the stretch.
Again, this is not to get on the effort put forth by either winger, but this kind of grouping really makes Krejci the line's lone threat, allowing teams to focus in and key on the crafty Czech center. And though that's not the worst situation for a player with 25 points in his last 24 games, Krejci's best work in this one came on a shift that saw David Backes and Danton Heinen fill in as his wingers, something that didn't stick, even after the goal.
But the truth is that Krejci will probably need a tad more skill -- even if it's a smaller tweak like Heinen and Backes over a Cehlarik and Kuhlman -- on his wings to keep this line rolling.
Fortunately for the Bruins, it doesn't sound as if they'll be without DeBrusk for much longer than a week, per Cassidy.
Tuukka Rask has weird night in winning effort
If you didn't see any of Thursday's game, you're waking up on Friday thinking Tuukka Rask had a miserable night, surrendering three goals on 25 shots. You might even be so bold (read as: silly) to call it a game the B's won in spite of Rask's play.
But the truth is that Rask's night was a bizarre spot, with more than a handful of stellar stops on countless Florida chances off Boston giveaways, and with the Panthers' three goals coming off undeniably unique and skillful plays.
"I thought, as a coach, you’re sitting there and the goals that went in, they’re not really Tuukka’s [Rask] fault but they’re not great goals," Cassidy said of his netminder's night. "They’re just kind of fortunate: a tip, one out of the air, some spin around move he’s probably not – you know, and all of a sudden. But again, the guys hung in there. He made saves on the PP. He didn’t stop playing either just because they had some goofy goals go in, so give him credit too at the end for giving us a chance."
But Rask did take some blame for Florida's third goal (the second Huberdeau strike), noting that he was cheating on the play.
"It’s a bad feeling as a goalie when you’re trying to keep your team in it and then you make a mistake and give them the lead," Rask admitted. "Just try to keep the focus and hope that somebody’s going to get the tying goal.
"Pretty pumped that Bergeron got the winning goal there so it was awesome."
Nevertheless, Rask's effort was just enough to extend his personal point streak to 18 games, with a 15-0-3 record and .931 save percentage over that stretch. Or, in other words, Rask is still without a regulation loss in 2019.
Panthers' Barkov might just be the best superstar nobody knows
I cannot get on your case if you do not know Aleksander Barkov. He plays on a (somehow) bad Florida team, and their lack of success and nationally-televised games is a killer. But I'll tell you this: Take my word for it when I tell you that there's not a bigger superstar nobody knows about than the Florida top-line center. He's absolutely unbelievable.
Just a complete, 200-foot center that saw the majority of his night feature a head-to-head with Zdeno Chara. A match that I think you could make the case that the 6-foot-3 pivot won, as he was on the ice for two goals against the 41-year-old captain.
Get this dude some Shine-Time, NHL.
The Bruins will have Friday off before they return to action Saturday night against the Senators.