BOSTON – Brad Marchand’s Saturday afternoon perfectly paralleled that of the Boston Bruins. It looked like it was going to be a straight up train wreck after the first two periods, and it might have been on another day.
But a final flurry in the final 11 minutes of the third period led to the happy ending everybody was looking for in Game 2 at TD Garden. Marchand notched a pair of assists and played a key role in Boston’s 5-3 comeback win over a stunned Montreal Canadiens group after looking more than a little like Bad Brad Bewildered in the first 40 minutes.
A lesser player might have been a tad gun shy after some costly turnovers in the earlier two periods, but instead Marchand ignored it and ignited the Boston comeback while showing the fearlessness his team thrives on.
The B’s agitator went right back to his bread and better curl and drag move in the offensive zone, and good things started to happen for Boston. Marchand pulled the puck, surveyed the scene and found Dougie Hamilton trailing the play and ready to shoot in the high slot. A tape-to-tape pass led Hamilton right into a top shelf shot that beat Carey Price to close within one goal, and started a spree of three goals in 5:32 that saw the Black and Gold seal Montreal’s fate.
“He’s a pretty crafty player, he can beat you on the rush by going to the net or he can stop up. So I’ve seen him do it numerous times this year. He always seems to make the right play, if it’s going to the net hard and taking on the defensemen, or pulling up and finding one of our defensemen,” said Reilly Smith. “It’s a tough play for other teams to solve because they are focusing so much on his speed, and trying to collapse in front. He is able to find that seam, and it was definitely a game changer that one play.”
Marchand didn’t stop there, however.
He picked up the assist on Patrice Bergeron’s unlikely shot from the right circle that hit a rut in the ice, and somehow skipped past Carey Price to tie things up in the third period to the amazement of a raucous crowd. Then Marchand camped in front of the net while jousting for position with P.K. Subban, and caused enough of a distraction for Subban and Carey Price to allow Smith a great shooting opportunity.
The second year right wing buried the shot up high on a flopping Price, and the Bruins had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish based on his forward line’s hard work, skill and even a little bit of fickle puck luck. But it was that one deft pass to Dougie Hamilton that got everything going for Boston, and proved once again that Marchand is truly a bellwether player for the Black and Gold.
“The main thing is you’ve just got to drive wide with speed, and if you do that then you’re either going to get around their [defensemen] or he’s going to cut you off,” said Marchand, describing the curl and drag pass setting up Boston’s second goal of the game. “Once he cuts you off and you turn up, you’re going to have room. You know our [defensemen] are really good at following up the play. Dougie [Hamilton] has been playing great lately, so it was good to see him score.”
It was also good to see a positive play for Marchand, who was deep within the Bruins’ coaching staff’s dog house with his play through the first two periods. It was Marchand that didn’t have even a single shot through the first two periods of action in a ghostly performance, and gave the puck away in the neutral zone on his opening shift of the second period.
Marchand was trying to make a play at the end of a long shift instead of playing the simple dump into the corner, and it all backfired on the Bruins second line left winger. Instead that turnover led to a Mike Weaver goal for the Habs after some hand-to-hand combat around the net, and erased Boston’s slim lead through the first period. The B’s winger continued to favor cute plays over hard, conservative plays with the puck through two periods, and that curtailed his offensive involvement.
“It was the end of my shift, and I definitely should have just dumped it in,” admitted Marchand. “I mean you can’t dwell on it. Things happen in a game, and you make mistakes. You’ve just got to get over it. It’s definitely frustrating for them to capitalize on that, but you know we ended up winning the game, so that’s all that matters.”
In a lesson that all could learn from, Marchand bounced back and matched Bergeron as the only two multi-point scorers for the Bruins in their comeback third period victory on Saturday afternoon. He also did it the old fashioned way with bright, creative plays with the puck, and a mucking, grinding work ethic despite his status as one of the smallest guys on the ice.
It’s been a rough postseason thus far for Marchand with costly turnovers and a handful of missed open nets thus far, but the Nose Face Killah showed up when it meant the most for his teammates. Now he just needs to keep it remaining at that level while the Bruins travel North to Montreal for a pair of games at the Bell Centre that will undoubtedly push Boston to the edge.