Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Blue Jackets 5, Bruins 4: Ryan Donato's debut outshines overtime loss

Ty Anderson
March 19, 2018 - 11:29 pm

If you’ve followed the Bruins and the ways the bounces have favored their youth -- early and often, I should add -- this season, you had a feeling that the freshly signed Ryan Donato would make some sort of an impact in his NHL debut on Monday night.

Once he woke up out of his living dream, of course.

“I mean during warmups actually I was kind of taken away,” Donato, a native of Scituate, Mass., admitted. “It kind of felt like a dream and I really didn’t even get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else and just kind of the whole situation.”

But by the night’s end, with the Bruins ultimately falling to the Blue Jackets by a 5-4 overtime final, Donato was only thing that the Black and Gold seemed focused on.

“He’s on the puck, as advertised, in terms of his compete. Wanted to shoot the puck. I think, early, he was trying to make some plays and then realized, just play to your strength. Did a real good job,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Donato’s debut one day after signing. “I didn’t notice anything away from the puck. I’m sure there’s a few teaching moments once you go back over the game tape and go from there. But, like I said, I liked him a lot, and I’m sure [David Krejci> did, as well. They seemed to have some good chemistry.”

In an 0-1 hole through 20 minutes despite a 14-to-5 shot advantage (including a game-high four from Donato through just one period), Donato responded to the deficit with an echoing one-time blast scored at the 5:41 mark of the second period. 

Becoming the eighth player to score their first NHL goal for the Bruins this season, the goal was as Donato as a goal could be, with a quick release and lethal accuracy coming off what was a great give-and-go sequence with Krejci.

“Hadn’t heard much,” Krejci said of his prior knowledge of Donato’s game. “...but [I> watched some games at the Olympics so I knew that he had a good shot.”

A goal that nearly blew the roof off TD Garden, the Bruins carried this obvious momentum into a goal on their very next shot, as Brad Marchand capped a 2-on-1 sequence with a backhand roofer for his 31st goal of the season.

Operating as the top power-play unit’s net-front presence, Donato then factored in with an assist on Riley Nash’s power-play goal scored at the 16:32 mark of the second.

And when the Jackets stormed back to take a 4-3 lead in the third period on an Artemi Panarin bullet off a faceoff, Donato once again took charge and came through with a primary helper, dishing it to Krejci for the game-tying goal 20 seconds later.

“You’re never really going to expect to play in your first NHL game and have chances,” Donato offered. “For me I was just going in with a positive attitude and no matter what role they had me in I was going to try and do it to my best. I was fortunate to get a couple bounces and it almost went in a couple times and obviously one went in.”

Finishing with 19:40 of action, Donato’s final line featured a goal, three points, and six shots on goal (behind only Brad Marchand’s eight shots for the most among Boston shooters). He was also a factor for the Boston man advantage beyond the assist and net-front role that consistently kept plays alive, with a penalty drawn in the first period.

“I mean for me I was kind of just staying focused and keeping my head between the glass,” Donato said of his first game. “Obviously it’s going to be a crazy experience no matter how the game goes for me and I just wanted to stay focused and kind of just repeated myself and remained in the game and not get too crazy and it worked out.”

Clearly having the ‘it factor’ when on ice and on proper footing between the ears, this was just a teaser of the kind of on- and off-ice poise that helped Donato dominate at Dexter, and become a legitimate game-changing talent for the Harvard Crimson.

“Very impressed by that [ability> to be able to come in here [and contribute>. Especially your hometown, could be some jitters there, might be easier to do it on the road,” Cassidy remarked of Donato’s ability to wow in front of a sellout Garden crowd. “To each his own in that area, but there’s a lot of people to, sort of, impress, and it’s a tough game.

So, good for him to be able to do it right here in his own backyard.”

And, finally after actual years of waiting, on the right side of the Charles.

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