Bruins’ epic comeback win another moment in Torey Krug’s spotlight season

Matt Kalman
November 24, 2019 - 1:04 am

What could’ve been a demoralizing loss on home-ice to the Minnesota Wild turned into one of the most dramatic Bruins regular season wins in some time Saturday at TD Garden.

David Krejci scored two goals 48 seconds apart in the game’s 59th minute to tie the score, and then Torey Krug put the game away with a backhand shot at 2:41 of the overtime period for a 5-4 win that extended Boston’s winning streak to three games and its point streak to seven (4-0-3).

“Having that celebration after the goal that tied the game, you know those are great feelings,” said Krug, who was back in the lineup after missing five games with an upper-body injury. “Those are moments that bring a team together throughout a season. And that group of guys that was on the ice takes a lot of pride in being those guys that make things happen. But to come back and celebrate at the bench with those guys and see how excited they are, you know that’s a special things as well. So those are moments that bring a group together and we’ll try to embrace it.”

These are the type of wins the Bruins have enjoyed throughout Krug’s nine seasons with Boston. They’re the type of wins that could convince him to stay rather than depart via free agency next summer. It was appropriate that in a season that has been, and will continue to be, dominated by questions about his future with the Bruins, Krug was front and center as Boston’s epic comeback unfolded.

He was on the ice for the last five goals of the game, four for Boston and one for Minnesota. He got the primary assist on Brad Marchand’s goal with less than four seconds remaining in the second period that cut the lead to 3-2.

Kevin Fiala’s end-to-end rush was bad enough, but then the Wild forward lost the puck and it went in Boston’s net off Krug’s stick a little more than five minutes into the third period to get the Wild lead back to two goals at 4-2.

Then came the Krejci explosion, including a 6-on-4 power play goal to tie the score with 1:07 remaining with Krug getting the secondary assist.

It was a heck of a return to the lineup for Krug, who wasted little time expanding his role with the Bruins by helping kill a penalty with captain Zdeno Chara in the box early in the first period. Then Krug retaliated for a Fiala shove by slashing the Wild forward, a penalty that cost the Bruins when Jason Zucker scored the first goal of the game.

“It’s a stupid penalty. And then they score on it right away, so it hurts the team,” Krug said. “But yeah, I shouldn’t have done it. Maybe it’s one of the things I’m just trying to get in the game a little bit physically. Just be a little smarter, maybe a little sneakier next time.”

Krug spent just seven seconds in the box, and he went on to finish the night with 20:26 of ice time in his one-goal, two-assist performance. Conditioning clearly wasn’t an issue for his first game back.

“It’s good that he had a little left in the tank offensively at the end of the night,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

As much as a win like this helps strengthen the familial bonds that most of the Bruins forged during last year’s run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and a surprisingly large number have developed over the course of this decade, it also reminds you how vital Krug is to the Bruins’ success.

How can the Bruins live without Torey Krug? And if your answer is some combination of Charlie McAvoy, whose offensive game is still a work-in-progress; Matt Grzelcyk, who has a solid offensive game but gets his points in a totally different way than Krug; and Urho Vaakanainen, who is still a ways away from being a NHL regular, you have to understand that any Bruins future without Krug is going to require a step back offensively, especially on the power play, and a rethinking of the way Cassidy and his staff devise their offensive schemes.

Krug’s game isn’t just about his offense, which scouts are definitely noticing as they try to convince their general managers to hold some money and a roster spot for the 5-foot-9 blueliner. The Bruins have also come to rely on him forming a hard-nosed second defense pair with Brandon Carlo. That duo shut down some top offensive talents in last year’s playoffs, and Krug will have to continue to prove he can do it in the regular season this winter.

Every big goal, every night that an opposing sniper is kept off the score sheet adds up to more potential money for Krug. But how can he live without Boston? Where else is he going to have a chance to win with a core that’s won before and a younger secondary core that came close to last season? It’d be hard for him to match the top-two center combination of Krejci and Patrice Bergeron elsewhere. He might not find the chemistry he has with Carlo or power-play targets he has in Marchand and David Pastrnak somewhere they feast on Little Caesars.

The question of whether he stays or goes may not be answered until July. Luckily for the Bruins, Krug’s never been burned by the spotlight in his career to this point and doesn’t seem like he’ll be affected by it any time soon. So they can expect more momentous performances like Saturday night’s during their pursuit of the one extra Final win that eluded them last June.

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