What looked like an easy two-point evening ended up with the Boston Bruins hanging on for dear life.
Jarome Iginla scored twice as the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins withstood a barrage in the third period to hold on and defeat the West cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Thursday.
Dennis Seidenberg and Brad Marchand also scored for the Bruins (22-8-2), who have won four in a row and eight of their last 10.
The Bruins had a 3-0 lead after the first period, but found themselves under siege for much of the rest of the game.
“I told the guys that they would come back hard on us,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “I didn’t like the goals we gave up for what we expect of our team. They were sloppy, but credit to the Oilers. They skated and showed their skill level and gave us a really tough game. At the end we were just hanging on. Our bench is short and we have been struggling with the health of our team and you could see that it was a matter of winning it in regulation or I don’t think we come out of here with a win.”
Marchand said all that mattered was the end result on the night.
“It’s a road win and we have to be happy with it,” he said. “We know we are not going to put our best game on the ice every night, but we want to keep building. With all of the injuries we have right now, every win is huge.”
Bruins backup goalie Chad Johnson made 39 saves and was especially tested in a third period that saw his team outshot 13-3.
“It was a tough game to hold on in,” he said. “Sometimes it is like that. Sometimes you have to hold on. We battled really hard. I thought the guys did a good job killing penalties and battling defensively.”
David Perron replied with both goals for the Oilers (11-19-3), who have lost two of their last three and dropped to 6-10-2 on home ice.
“I don’t know if we won a battle in the first period,” said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. “I don’t know if we were, ‘The Bruins are in town, they’re one of the best teams in the league and we need to play cautious.’ You can’t play cautious against anybody, you’ll get killed if you give them too much time and space. But even though we weren’t winning the battles, I didn’t think the first period was as bad as the shot clock showed or the score was. I still felt we had a chance if we could get a goal.”
Perron felt his team might have deserved a different fate in the game.
“I felt even after the first period the score wasn’t reflective of the game,” he said. “I thought they were outplaying us, but not by that much. Not by three goals anyway. We did our job in the second and we’re probably going to have nightmares about not scoring in the last minute and hitting the post.”
Edmonton has lost 11 straight games to the Bruins dating back to 2000.
There was a good pace to the game in the early going before the Bruins started the scoring.
Edmonton starter Devan Dubnyk whiffed on a long hopeful shot from the blue-line by Seidenberg, who was sending the puck in while his team made a line change just past the mid-mark of the first period.
Boston made it 2-0 with four minutes left in the opening period on another long shot goal as Edmonton-area native Iginla scored on a slapshot with Milan Lucic providing a screen in front. It was Iginla’s first game in Edmonton as a member of any team other than the rival Calgary Flames.
The Bruins then took a dominating three-goal edge thanks to a short-handed goal with 1:43 left in the first. Philip Larsen’s shot was blocked at the point, allowing Boston to break away on a 2-on-1 that was capitalized on when Patrice Bergeron fed Marchand for his fifth goal of the season. The Oilers have allowed a league-high seven short-handed goals this season.
Edmonton backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera came in to replace Dubnyk to start the second period.
The Oilers finally got on the board three-and-a-half minutes into the second as Perron gained the zone and beat Johnson stick-side with a quick wrist shot for this team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Edmonton cut Boston’s lead to one goal with two-and-a-half minutes left in the second as Perron picked up a puck behind the net and fought off Bergeron with one hand while hooking the puck around and into the net with a highlight-reel move.
The shots were an even 28-28 after 40 minutes.
The Oilers pressed hard for the equalizer in the first 13 minutes of the third period - out-shooting the Bruins 10-0 - but were unable to get a shot past Johnson.
Edmonton continued to be all over Boston’s zone, but the Bruins were able to put it away when Iginla scored an empty-net goal in the final minute.
The Oilers embark on a four-game road trip, beginning on Friday in Vancouver. The Bruins follow the Oilers out west to face the Canucks on Saturday.
Notes: It was Ference’s first game against his old team since joining the Oilers as a free agent during the summer and subsequently being named captain. ... The Bruins are battling the flu bug and hardest hit was goalie Tuuka Rask, who served as a backup to Johnson in the game. ... The Bruins were also without forward Shawn Thornton, who was out pending a disciplinary hearing for his actions in the injury to Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpick. ... Out with injuries for Boston were forwards Daniel Paille (upper body), Loui Eriksson (concussion) and Chris Kelly (broken ankle) and defencemen Doug Hamilton (lower body) and Adam McQuaid (lower body). ... The Oilers were absent forwards Boyd Gordon (shoulder) and Ryan Smyth (neck) and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (concussion). Defenceman Jeff Petry returned for the game.