Fittingly enough, when Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien summoned his players to the bench for his lone timeout with 8:11 left in Thursday night’s second period, the TD Garden loudspeakers churned out Enrique Iglesias’ “I Like It.”
Given the full scope of the circumstances, it was a move that Bruins fans should have liked. It looked like a good idea at the time and it proved a shrewd choice in the end as Boston morphed what was then a 4-2 advantage into a 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
After spilling an initial 2-0 lead within the first period, the Bruins had replenished that two-goal difference on strikes by Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. But barely three minutes after Seguin struck, a hooking penalty to Shawn Thornton constituted Boston’s first shorthanded scenario and let Edmonton threaten to rally again.
As it happened, the Bruins got through that predicament unscathed, but there was not a single stoppage for the entirety of Thornton’s two-minute sentence. After that sentence was up, the second penalty-killing unit of Gregory Campbell, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg stayed on the ice for what amounted well over a minute.
Thornton had joined the action for 20 seconds before play finally stopped on a Boston icing. Naturally, that infraction forced him along with the doubtlessly drained quartet of penalty killers to extend their shift indefinitely.
Leading up to that play and Boston’s ensuing timeout, the Oilers had attempted six unanswered shots, landing two on net while two others went wide and another pair was blocked.
On the other side of the Julien-ordered pause, Krejci won the faceoff and the Bruins proceeded to take seven consecutive attempted shots, including five on net, for the next four minutes.
Conversely, Edmonton didn’t manage another shot attempt until blueliner Jeff Petry sent a snapper wide at the 15:26 mark. The Oilers did not test Boston backstop Tuukka Rask again until 17:30, when Tom Gilbert took a shorthanded shot.
All the while, the 4-2 lead remained intact through the second intermission. And while Edmonton more than doubled-up the Bruins in the third period shooting gallery, 13-6, and finally managed to cut the deficit in half, Boston mustered yet another set of two goals in one minute to finalize the 6-3 upshot.
It could have been more intense than it turned out to be. Had Julien elected to save his lone timeout for later, which most coaches would be inclined to do when a game is barely half-over, Edmonton could have reaped its third goal at least full period sooner.
Had they made it 4-3 in the middle frame, let alone on the heels of Thornton’s release and Boston’s icing, they would have had encouraging odds of usurping the lead altogether.
Instead, it took them until there were fewer than five minutes to spare in regulation, when Ryan Smyth pounced on a power play. Sure, that signaled that the game was not quite over, but the Oilers were now forced to cram for the equalizer.
They didn’t get it. Instead, Seguin forced Cam Barker to take an interference penalty and Milan Lucic renewed the two-goal lead once more with the Bruins’ second 5-on-4 conversion of the night.
Edmonton tested Rask thrice more while Marchand gave Boston an extra dose of insurance in between.
This is not the first time Julien has been rewarded for prudent use of his timeout. In his team’s previous outing versus the New York Islanders on Monday, his top line of Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin had been safeguarding a 5-2 lead on a lengthy shift when they iced the puck with 4:02 left in regulation. That, too, was in the immediate wake of a successful penalty kill.
Bergeron won the next draw and Krejci soon inserted an empty-netter to cement a 6-2 victory.
And last March 24, in a rivalry game with critical playoff-seeding implications, the Bruins led the visiting Montreal Canadiens, 3-0, when they brought mercy upon themselves through an icing at 9:10 of the second period.
Julien requested a respite on the spot. As an almost direct result, Boston would not let the Habs usurp the lead it had sculpted in the first period on four unanswered goals, as other adversaries have done to the Bruins in the past.
Rather, Boston kept the second period scoreless and then collected four straight strikes of its own in the third to elevate that 3-0 edge to a 7-0 blowout.
Summoning a timeout, especially at an earlier-than-conventional moment to circumvent the consequences of the no-change-after-icing rule, is one of the few ways a coach can tinker on direct participation in a hockey game. He is, in essence, behaving as a secondhand defenseman as he moves to prevent an opposing goal, especially those that can give the game an unfavorable U-turn.
On Thursday, Julien reiterated his status as a model performer in that art. And it paid dividends when the Bruins secured their fourth win in as many November games and returned to a .500 winning percentage for the first time since Columbus Day.