Between the 1:40 and 2:16 mark of Thursday’s third period, with a 1-1 deadlock at hand, Boston Bruins fourth-liners Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Lane MacDermid performed every task in their collective job description.
In turn, they carried on from where they had left off in scoring the equalizer late in the second period and set a tone and a pace for a key 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
To start their first shift of the closing frame, Campbell won a faceoff in the Buffalo zone. Amidst the subsequent offensive push, Campbell and Thornton each threw a hit, Thornton committed his second takeaway of the game, and MacDermid landed a wrist shot on Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
The rest of the ride was critically different from the previous 40-plus minutes, when the Bruins ran up a decisive advantage in terms of faceoff wins and shots attempted. In the third period, Boston logged a 16-15 edge in attempted shots, while the registered stabs were seven apiece.
But all that really counted was the delayed, yet timely gratification Boston cultivated on the scoreboard. And the fourth line had an unmistakable role in releasing that carbonation, and played a more subtle, but no less vital part in keeping it flowing en route to the Bruins’ first set of back-to-back wins in eight weeks.
For more than a full period’s worth of action, the Sabres were subsisting on a 1-0 advantage, as each of Boston’s first 41 attempted shots and 21 shots on goal failed to leave a dent.
But with 1:51 to spare in the second, none other than Gregory Campbell drew the 1-1 knot whilst snapping his 18-game goal-scoring skid. With the assist, Thornton garnered his first point since Feb. 11 versus Nashville.
Considering the various individual and team-wide circumstances, the Boston faithful could not have picked a more heartening sight than that of Campbell’s homeward-bound tip-in of Thornton’s setup. Leading up to that play, 13 out of 18 different skaters had tested Enroth without result.
Meanwhile, amidst this infamous streak of streak-lessness, the Bruins were frequently struggling to supplement their offense in the absence of Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and, eventually, Daniel Paille. With their aforementioned cold spells, Campbell and Thornton were not helping in that most pressing department.
That changed in the latter half of Thursday’s contest. Not long after Campbell put Boston on the board, and after his entire line ran a diversely impactful first shift to commence the final stanza, another line perked up to usurp the lead.
On his fourth registered shot at Enroth―which tied him for the team lead with Patrice Bergeron―defenseman Johnny Boychuk converted a feed from Jordan Caron with 7:04 to spare in regulation.
Caron had swapped positions with Brian Rolston on the depth chart earlier in the night and, while working with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, intercepted the puck and ultimately earned his sixth point in three games.
Two shifts later, the “energy line” was in action once more, feeding off and enhancing the buzz they had essentially spawned themselves.
With 5:03 left on the clock, Campbell threw the first of four unanswered hits from the Bruins. That sequence, which lasted roughly a minute with change on the fly, and no whistles in between, immediately preceded Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and David Krejci’s collaboration on an insurance goal.
Krejci’s goal gave him and his linemates at least one point in each of five games as a unit and delivered the dagger.
Until then (or at least leading up to the second intermission), that eventuality did not seem so possible. It looked as though ill fortune, and maybe a shortage of opportunism, would put a hasty freeze on the altered Krejci line’s budding hot streak, as well as Caron’s.
By night’s end, all of the above lived to see another night. And the entire course reversed when Campbell and Thornton thawed out from their protracted frostbite.