Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Bruins notes: Nordstrom plays hero while Forsbacka Karlsson barely survives

Matt Kalman
November 24, 2018 - 12:20 am

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has Joakim Nordstrom to thank for making sure the rookie center’s rough night all over the ice became a footnote rather than the main focus Friday night.

Nordstrom scored his first NHL overtime goal 1:57 of the extra session to earn the Bruins a 2-1 win at TD Garden.

Nordstrom, who now has four goals this season after scoring two in 75 games for Carolina last season, was the sixth forward to jump over the boards for the Bruins in overtime.

“Did I think he’d score the winner? No, but hey it worked out that way and good for him,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s a pretty responsible player in all situations and does a lot of penalty killing for us, hasn’t seen the power play. So it’s nice when a guy like that gets rewarded.”

The Bruins’ win was remarkable because not only did they keep the Penguins to just one power-play goal by Evgeni Malkin for 60-plus minutes, Boston was able to survive Forsbacka Karlsson centering itsfirst line in Patrice Bergeron’s usual spot and facing off most shifts against a line centered by superstar Sidney Crosby. The Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak flanking Forsbacka Karlsson was out-attempted for the game but Crosby’s line didn’t get on the scoreboard. A lot of credit has to go to the defense pair of Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller, and of course, to goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who made 36 saves, including five on Crosby and four on linemate Jake Guentzel.

Cassidy was diplomatic about Forsbacka Karlsson’s play.

“Listen, he battled,” the coach said. “I know our goaltending had to come through, usually does, but to keep them to no 5-on-5 goals you have to give credit to everybody on the ice against a good offensive team. Certainly, he was part of that, tough assignment on faceoffs. Crosby’s one of the better ones, but there was a little more talk of if we do lose it let’s be aggressive where we’re going, so we can kill some plays. I think for the most part we did.”

Forsbacka Karlsson lost 15 of 20 faceoffs overall, 12 of 15 against Crosby. He was lost on coverage several times late in the second period, when Guentzel had two Grade A scoring chances wide-open in the slot that Halak prevented from finding the back of the net. Somehow Forsbacka Karlsson made it through 18:22, his season-high for ice time by 6:03, without getting benched or scored on.

“He’s tough,” Forsbacka Karlsson said about Crosby. “I had a tough time trying to figure him out on the draws there. So it’s a tough matchup, you know, we have good players on our team, too. So I think we did OK.”

"OK" can cut it when Halak is playing otherworldly in net and the Penguins are frustrated. There’s no telling how the Bruins will fare just being OK when the competition gets even tougher. And right now Marchand and Pastrnak look a little lost without Bergeron, which one wouldn’t expect considering the caliber of player they’ve both become. The Bruins may have to look to other options, including shifting Nordstrom to center, before the Forsbacka Karlsson experiment costs them a game.

*Another reason the Bruins were able to get by with their first line off its game was the play of David Krejci’s line with Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. DeBrusk scored the Bruins’ other goal off a back pass from Krejci and Cassidy called that line “terrific.”

*Tuukka Rask will start in Montreal on Saturday.

Related: Kalman: Chara determined to return to Bruins ‘as strong’ as he can