How Kuraly, linemates came to Bruins’ rescue in Winter Classic win

Matt Kalman
January 01, 2019 - 5:05 pm

Who you calling a fourth line?

You’re definitely not giving that designation to the trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner after those three players’ heroics in the third period of the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame on Tuesday.

After Nordstrom and Wagner harassed the Chicago Blackhawks with a heavy forecheck, Kevan Miller hit Matt Grzelcyk with a cross-ice pass. The left-shot defenseman took a slap shot that hit Wagner in front and Kuraly scooped up the loose puck on his backhand and scored the game-winning goal with 9:40 remaining in a 4-2 Boston win.

It was Kuraly’s second straight game-winning goal after he beat Buffalo with an overtime score on Saturday.

The national broadcasters and titans of Twitter were classifying that line as the Bruins’ fourth. But as everyone knows, the Bruins have been fielding two fourth lines for quite some time and when the Bruins are successful one shows up and becomes a third line. One of those fourth lines at the start of the Classic was a trio of Danton Heinen with Kuraly and Wagner through the first two periods Tuesday. But as he’s apt to do, the fair-complexioned Heinen was a ghost through 40 minutes, so after a rash of special teams play early in the third period coach Bruce Cassidy made the switch to Nordstrom in Heinen’s place.

The Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner line was clearly the third line, because Heinen took just three shifts in the third period and Colby Cave only got off the bench once.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner gave the Bruins the lead, was on the ice for much of the final two minutes protecting a one-goal and then two-goal lead, and nearly scored twice more. Kuraly was denied by Chicago goaltender Cam Ward on a 2-on-0 break and then hit the crossbar in the closing seconds. Maybe if Kuraly had scored that hat trick (or at least two goals) no one would be calling him a fourth-liner today.

For today you can call him and his linemates whatever you want because all that matters is that Nordstrom, Kuraly and Wagner wrote their names into Winter Classic history.

All hail Patrice

It was appropriate that within view of “Touchdown Jesus” the Bruins’ own God-like figure produced a crucial sequence that showed why many Bruins fans exchange gifts on his birthday instead of that other guy’s.

Patrice Bergeron tied the score 2-2 with a power-play goal from the slot at 18:48 of the second period. But he may not have had that chance had he not backchecked like mad dog to prevent a David Kampf shorthanded breakaway seconds earlier.

Remember to hang your stockings July 24, folks.

A Tuukka New Year

Guess what all you folks saying that Tuukka Rask had to prove he could win a “big game” after he got the start for the Classic: your New Year's resolution should be to get a new verbal punching bag. Rask made 36 saves on 38 shots – many from high-danger areas, including a Patrick Kane breakaway late in the first period – and now the narrative for 2019 has done a complete 180, right? Well not really, Rask will always be the most-criticized Bruins, win or lose, but that doesn’t change the fact that the “Tuukka can’t win a big game” crew should stop spreading fake news.

Related: Photos: Scenes from Bruins' Winter Classic at Notre Dame

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