Kalman: Pastrnak’s wakeup call came in nick of time for Bruins

Matt Kalman
April 18, 2019 - 12:05 am

“I’m awake.” -- Bruins forward David Pastrnak

Boston’s rambunctious right wing said the above to Alex Kraemer during the intermission on NESN Wednesday between the second and third period of the Bruins’ 6-4, Eastern Conference first round series-tying win in Toronto.

The best-of-7 series, now tied 2-2, shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Friday.

Moments before his interview, Pastrnak scored two second-period goals to help the Bruins take a 4-2 lead heading to the third. Considering Pastrnak’s prowess as a goal scorer – 38 goals in 66 games this season – it shouldn’t be a surprise that he erupted the way he did. But for the first three games of this series his production was taking an extended nap.

Then the first period of Game 4 was basically a siesta. Because the Bruins had to kill two penalties late in the period, and coach Bruce Cassidy was riding center Charlie Coyle’s line a little more than usual, Pastrnak actually went 8:33 without taking a shift. That’s not exactly the recipe for getting him going.

Cassidy made up for losing Pastrnak by playing him 7:27 in the second, including one crucial shift with his longtime linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Cassidy started the game by throwing a curveball Toronto’s way, moving Danton Heinen to the right side of Bergeron and Marchand, and sliding Pastrnak in next to David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

But the Maple Leafs iced the puck at 2:44 of the second period, and Cassidy saw an opening to attack Toronto with his best threesome. Thirty-two seconds later Marchand connected with Pastrnak on a net-drive for the goal that gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead, an edge they never relinquished despite being outshot 30-17 over the final 40 minutes.

After that goal Pastrnak may as well have been a human incarnation of 5-hour energy, because 1:35 later he extended the Bruins’ lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal off a nifty cross-ice, backhand feed by Marchand.

“Scorers when they don’t score can get antsy. I’m not saying David was there, but we wanted to keep him from going there,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said in his postgame press conference. “So getting his two goals, they get recharged.”

To say Cassidy’s line changes worked to perfection would be to ignore the 42 shots against, the dozens of scoring chances against and the four goals allowed. There were times when the Bruins, forwards and defensemen alike, were practically begging the Maple Leafs to score with the puck management that was on display.

But like Pastrnak, other players needed to wake up. Sometimes it takes skating with different linemates to make that happen, and this time it did.

“I think it sparked everybody,” Pastrnak told the media.

But Pastrnak isn’t the type of player that needs gimmicks to get him going. You know it was eating away at him that he hadn’t scored yet in this series, especially with the Bruins losing Game 3 by a single goal, 3-2. And especially since he’s been a Maple Leafs killer the past two years (he now has seven goals and nine assists in 11 career Stanley Cup playoff games against the Maple Leafs).

The goose egg in his scoring column was really all Pastrnak needed to get him going. It didn’t hurt, though, to get a few shifts away from Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin and get the legs in gear. It didn’t hurt to get a shift with Bergeron and Marchand against a tired Maple Leafs quintet after an icing. And it didn’t hurt that with Muzzin pinching, Pastrnak was able to outrace Mitch Marner to get that first goal.

Despite his breakout game, Pastrnak was still just fourth among Bruins forwards in 5-on-5 ice time (Krejci, Coyle and Marchand played more). So Pastrnak, who after landing 10 shots on net through three games finished Game 4 with six shots on net (plus two misses), should be well-rested.

The Bruins are hoping he doesn’t hit the snooze button for Game 5.

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