By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the game on his stick on an odd-man rush coming Robin Lehner's way, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy took 55 games of goalless frustration out on an empty Chicago cage in overtime and propelled the Black and Gold to their fifth straight victory by way of a 2-1 final over the Blackhawks at the United Center.
"That was special," McAvoy, who had not scored a regular-season since since Mar. 27 prior to Wednesday's winner, told reporters after the win. "Gave a lot of guys hugs after the game."
No question about it. @CMcAvoy44's overtime winner and first ????of the season is tonight's @JagermeisterUSA Shot Of The Game. https://t.co/KuCOJvQa8N
McAvoy's goal came on his 76th shot of the season, meaning that after 75 shots on goal, McAvoy was still without a goal to his name. To put that in perspective, the Blue Jackets' David Savard is the only other player to throw at least 70 shots on net this season and still skate without a goal to his name (Savard is currently 0-for-70 on his bids for tallies this season). Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne scored a goal before McAvoy did.
I mean, it got pretty rough there for a hot minute.
But the Bruins always believed that McAvoy was going to eventually break through, and they were encouraged by McAvoy's recent strides (he had two helpers in Tuesday's win over Vancouver), and the fact that the offensive struggles weren't taking anything away from his three-zone play.
"I liked his first assist [on Tuesday] with the shot because it was quick and on the net with traffic," said Bruce Cassidy. "He had a couple chances [on Wednesday] to shoot and he looked back door. At the end of the day he's a good player for us.
"The offense will come and maybe this is a start of that a little bit more."
But to create McAvoy's moment, the Bruins had to first overcome a one-goal hole created by an Alex DeBrincat power-play goal scored 6:50 into the second period. DeBrincat's goal was really created out of what was a failed zone exit from Brad Marchand, who tried to bounce the puck off the wall and through a Chicago defender to spark what would have been a legitimate shorthanded rush on Lehner. But the puck never cleared the zone, and the Blackhawks had space to their name.
Boston responded before the end of the second period, though, thanks to a Sean Kuraly snipe just six minutes after DeBrincat's goal, good for Kuraly's fifth of the season, and a 1-1 stalemate through 40 minutes of play.
That score held after 60 minutes, too, even after the Blackhawks appeared to score a go-ahead tally with just over a minute remaining in the third period. But the referees quickly blew their whistle and silence the horn before 'Chelsea Dagger' could kick in, as they made a game-changing judgement call, claiming that a hand-pass sparked the would-be goal.
(For what it's worth, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after the game that the referees told him they blew the call.)
Pushed to overtime for the second time in as many head-to-heads this season, Jaroslav Halak and the B's killed off another power-play chance in overtime to deny the Blackhawks the win before McAvoy jumped into action and won it for the B's.
With the win, the Bruins moved atop the NHL standings, with 78 points compared to Washington's 77.
The Bruins will get back to work Saturday afternoon at TD Garden against Phil Kessel and the Coyotes. The Bruins defeated the Coyotes by a 1-0 score back on Oct. 5, and have won 15 straight games against the Coyotes dating back to Oct. 2010.