Setting records is not enough for the 2022-23 Boston Bruins. They apparently have to do it in dramatic fashion.
Not only did the B’s set the record for most wins in a season with their 63rd in a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, they rode David Pastrnak’s hat trick that gave the sniper his 58th, 59th and 60th goals of the season to get there.
“It’s very special. It’s been a lot of fun, I’m not going to lie. And it’s been really enjoyable with the group we have here,” Pastrnak told reporters in Philly. “We knew what was at stake and it was very special to hit it with a game like this. We made history today in the biggest league in hockey, so we definitely appreciate it.”
While the B’s leap-frogged the 1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning for the record, Pastrnak became the first Bruin since Phil Esposito in 1974-75 to hit the 60-goal plateau. Wells Fargo Arena was a fitting spot for Pastrnak, who scored his very first NHL goal there on Jan. 10, 2015.
It was an all-around monster game for Pastrnak, who has played some of his most impactful games down the stretch when the club has chosen to rest some of their older veterans. He landed 10 shots on net, hit two more posts, notched an assist on the final insurance goal and had another goal called back. He managed all that in just 15:04 of icetime.
In another bit of symmetry, Pastrnak’s 60th goal was his 300th career NHL tally
“Confidence, creativity and competitiveness. Those three Cs exude from him,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “Then you combine that with an attitude of he’s a team-first guy and he loves being a Bruin. I think his teammates, you could tell, when he got two, I think everyone was passing the puck to him.”
It was also a highly emotional victory for Jeremy Swayman (34 saves) as well. At the end of the game, he pointed to the sky in tribute to his late coach Red Gendron at Maine. Swayman was in Philly two years ago when he learned that Gendron had passed away unexpectedly.
“I think it was pretty scripted today how it worked out,” Swayman told TNT as he fought back ears. “It was pretty special.”
There’s one more regular season mark out there. Two points in their last two games would also give the B’s the record for points in the season, currently held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens with 132, though that would come with a fat asterisk. That Habs team played an 80-game season and in the pre-overtime era before the extra point was available in OT.
That takes nothing away from what this team has accomplished, which has found a way to an almost daily W, no matter who has been in the lineup.
As expected, the B’s left at home an all-star cast – Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, Taylor Hall, Linus Ullmark, Dmitry Orlov and the injured David Krejci – when they went to Philly. But the B’s burst out of the gate like they very much wanted to set the record and it was one of the Providence players who came up that was partially responsible for the first goal. Defenseman Connor Carrick helped keep the puck in at the right point and took it down to the half wall before setting up Charlie Coyle for a rare one-timer goal just 47 seconds into the game.
But it looked like the Flyers weren’t all that interested in being part of history. They knotted it just 17 seconds later off a puck-handling miscue. Swayman could not glove a long distance shot but it appeared Connor Clifton had a chance to clear it to the corner. Instead, he tried to settle it down and that gave Wade Allison a chance to knock it into the empty net behind Swayman.
Pastrnak found the range early in the second period. He wheeled into the middle of the ice out high and somehow got his wrist shot to go through Sandstrom’s pads at 2:04.
The B’s thought Pastrnak had No. 59 at 4:40 when Clifton took the puck deep and got a shot off that produced a rebound for Pastrnak to put in the net. It was immediately waved off for contact that Clifton made with goalie Felix Sandstrom. The B’s felt Ivan Provorov precipitated that contact and challenged, but they lost after a lengthy review. That forced them to kill off their 35th straight penalty, which they did with ease.
But No. 59 did come for Pastrnak, with some help from No. 59 Tyler Bertuzzi. The B’s controlled the puck out high and it seemed like Bertuzzi just waited for Pastrnak to get in position for the one-timer. Bertuzzi made the soft pass and Pastrnak smoked it past Sandstrom to make it 3-1 at 7:31.
The Flyers’ Joel Farabee got one back before the second period was out, but just 39 seconds into the third period, Pastrnak hit the 60-goal plateau after Hampus Lindholm sent Pastrnak and Bertuzzi off on a 2-on-1. After playing catch with his linemate, Pastrnak slipped it through Sandstrom’s pads, producing a shower of hats from Bruins fans that traveled south.
Pastrnak credited Brad Marchand with urging him to shoot high when setting goals.
“Marchie told me many, many years ago when I was young ‘You have to always aim 10 goals higher than you think you can get,'” said Pastrnak. “Definitely I was aiming at 60, without really thinking I could get there.”
After a spirited bout between A.J. Greer and Nicolas Deslauriers, the Flyers scratched back to within one at 9:06 when Owen Tippett scored off the rush, but Pavel Zacha ended it with his 21st goal with 3:04 left. When the horn finally went off, Swayman pointed to the sky and then was mobbed by his teammates before embracing Ullmark’s stand-in for the final hug, Brandon Bussi.
With the way this has played, Montgomery wasn’t really sweating this one out.
“(The feeling) was more, for me, gratitude, and a peaceful feeling because with this group, everything’s just felt right, you know?” said Montgomery. “So we expect good things to happen. We play the right way and we have the leaders that always talk about those things that really matter to the team success.”
As the B’s, to a man, have stated over and over, the wins record is not their ultimate goal. Far from it. But it’s a darn nice notch on the belt.
Story by Steve Conroy, Boston Herald