Former coach Bruce Cassidy made his triumphant return to Boston on Monday night, but the Bruins made him sweat it out. And another former Bruin helped him achieve it.
Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights blew a three-goal lead and then survived a Bruin powr play in overtime before Reilly Smith scored the lone shootout goal in the round of the skills competition for the 4-3 win.
It was the first loss on Garden ice all year for the B’s (14-0-1).
After Vegas went up 3-0 early in the second period, the B’s scored two goals in the second period and then tied it up early in the third when the Knights took two quick penalties, giving the B’s a lengthy 5-on-3. They couldn’t score on the two-man advantage but just after the first penalty was up, Taylor Hall followed up his own rebound to even the game at 3:08 of the third.
From there, the teams went back and forth for the rest of regulation but could not end it there.
Whether the Knights had any more motivation to win for their new coach or not, they were clearly the better team in the first period as they took a 2-0 lead. They were more focused and disciplined in all three zones of the ice
Vegas struck first just 1:36 into the game. Paul Cotter took Brandon Carlo for a short ride behind the Bruin net with the puck before before drifting out into the slot area. There he stood all alone to receive William Karlsson’s return pass and rood it over Jeremy Swayman’s glove shoulder.
Then at 5:04, the B’s shot themselves in the foot. On a breakout, David Pastrnak attempted a cross-ice pass from the left boards. Jonathan Marchessault picked it off and had a clean break-in. Swayman made the save on Marchessault’s initial shot, but the Knight forward was so all alone that he had plenty of time to collect his own rebound and score into the open net.
Before the Garden game presentation folks could play the welcome back video for Cassidy on the Jumbotron during the first TV timeout – as expected, he got strong ovation, which an emotional Cassidy acknowledged with a wave and hand to his heart – his team was up by a deuce.
The B’s did have some chances – the shots were 8-8 in the first – but more often than not, the better opportunities never got to goalie Logan Thompson as the Knights had their sticks in the good passing lanes. And sometimes, the B’s just made the wrong decisions with the puck, like when Tomas Nosek turned down a wide open shot from the high slot, opting for a pass that never got to its destination.
It got worse before it got better.
On the first shift of the second period, the B’s kicked around the puck until Derek Forbort made a backhand clear attempt to no one. It eventually went to Shea Theodore at the Vegas blue line and he pushed the puck back up ice, creating a quick 2-on-1. Mark Stone fed Cotter, who scored his second of the game shortside on a shot Swayman might have wanted back, though it was still a prime scoring chance that should not have happened.
The B’s started to show some life after Pastrnak buried Zac Whitecloud on a check. Shortly after that, they earned their first power play. That went for naught, but the B’s got on the board at 13:46 when Patrice Bergeron made a beautiful pass to Brad Marchand for a redirect goal, Marchand’s eighth of the season.
Then, with time winding down in the second period in which the B’s outshot Vegas 15-6, Pastrnak made it a game a terrific play. Working on his off wing, the sniper picked the pcuk off the kick plate and gave himself some open ice with a beautiful spin move before beating Thompson with a hard wrister with 24.4 seconds left in the period.