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Gritty Bruins get a point in VAN thanks to Nordstrom goal

Matt Kalman
October 21, 2018 - 8:55 am

Gritty is not just a mascot in Philadelphia, folks.

Gritty is also the state of mind the Bruins needed to be in while playing without Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller and David Backes in Vancouver on Saturday.

So it was appropriate Joakim Nordstrom, a player Bruins general manager Don Sweeney signed July 1 for his grittiness, scored the tying goal 7:45 into the third period to help earn the Bruins a point in a 2-1 overtime loss that could’ve been more disastrous considering the Bruins’ injury problems.

The Bruins already knew they were going to be missing Miller (hand) and McAvoy (mystery ailment) when Backes didn’t take the pregame warmup and was ruled out for the game because he “wasn’t feeling well.” So Steve Kampfer, a healthy scratch the first seven games of the season, had to get into the lineup. Rookie Urho Vaakanainen, who played for AHL Providence Friday, had to fly across the continent to suit up for his NHL debut. And coach Bruce Cassidy had to juggle his bottom-six forward lines, moving Nordstrom to the middle of the third line putting Ryan Donato on Nordstrom’s wing after Donato was scheduled to be a healthy scratch.

Making matters worse, the Bruins were so listless in the first period Cassidy actually broke up his top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak from late in that stanza until the halfway point of the second. Pastrnak moved down to David Krejci’s right, Jake DeBrusk switched over the left side and Danton Heinen moved up to the first line. The maneuver didn’t have an impact, but after Cassidy switched his top two lines back the Bruins pushed the play and outshot the Canucks 15-5 in the second.

The second-period surge came with a respectable level of grittiness, and that level rose even more in the third period, highlighted by Nordstrom’s goal. Cassidy once again juggled his lines, this time making a third line of Nordstrom between Anders Bjork and Chris Wagner. It not only paid off with a goal but also several possession-heavy shifts. The new fourth line of Donato with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari responded in the opposite direction and was benched for the last five minutes of regulation and overtime.

The Bruins’ doggedness also paid off on the back end, where Vaakanainen looked like a guy who basically just stepped off a plane on Vancouver’s first goal. Brandon Sutter was able to win a 1-on-2 battle with Vaakanainen and Matt Grzelcyk not once, but twice, before scoring the game’s opening goal. Sutter outworked the pair behind the net before he passed the puck to the point, and then outmuscled them in front of the net to score.

But Vaakanainen, 19, settled in and had a decent 12:26 of ice time before the Bruins decided to fight through the final six minutes of regulation and overtime with five defensemen.

In overtime, a series of miscues led to a 2-on-1 and Bo Horvat’s game-winning goal with 1:48 remaining, spoiling goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s satisfactory performance.

Halak, making consecutive starts for the first time this season, wasn’t completely sharp and got some lucky bounces during his 20-save performance and the Bruins earned their second standings point of the period and are 0-1-2 with one game remaining (at Ottawa on Tuesday) on their road trip.

If the Bruins aren’t healthier against the Senators, they’re going to have to continue to bring extra jam in their game, Cassidy’s going to have to keep mixing and matching his lines to find a spark, and the coach may have to continue to shorten his bench down the stretch.

Related: Kypreos: Bruins’ McAvoy looking for Ekblad-type extension

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