For Claude Julien, his opinion of shootouts hasn’t changed, but he likes to win, so Thursday night’s victory over the Lightning will do just fine.
Earning just their third shootout victory in 10 tries this season, the Bruins extended their win streak to four games, edging Tampa out in the skills competition with goals from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Tuukka Rask posted 35 saves in the win and stoned both members of the Lightning he faced in the shootout.
And while getting that second point was big for a Bruins team that’s gaining ground in terms of playoff seeding, a couple of penalties in overtime displayed the probable future alternative to the shootout. With Chris Kelly off for holding and Lightning center Alex Killorn to the box for embellishment, the teams were left with three skaters apiece.
This situation isn’t unfamiliar to those playing at the AHL level. Teams needing more than regulation have a seven-minute overtime period where the first four minutes are played four-on-four, and the final three are played three-on-three. If all that doesn’t decide it, then the shootout is used.
Guys like David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner, who spent time in Providence this season, have experienced three-on-three play more so than their NHL counterparts. In fact, some of the most memorable chances for the Bruins in that stretch of play were created by the duo.
With Spooner by his side, Pastrnak was able to turn two chances on netminder Ben Bishop within the span of eight seconds, the first of which was flicked wide and the second was a backhand that required the Lightning goalie to make a stop.
But for guys who haven’t necessarily had that chance, it was definitely different.
“I was a little nervous out there actually,” Marchand said. “There was so much room you almost don’t know what to do with it, but it was fun for sure.”
The fun was cut a little bit short as Matt Bartkowski took a holding penalty 1:20 after Kelly and Killorn went off, allowing Tampa to add another player back to the equation.
But during that time, and before Bartkowski’s penalty, the B’s and Lightning took different approaches to what was in front of them. Julien and the Bruins went with two forwards and a defenseman, using combinations like Bergeron-Marchand-Torey Krug and Spooner-Pastrnak-Bartkowski, while Tampa opted for a more conservative two defenseman, one forward approach. Lightning coach Jon Cooper sent out the likes of Tyler Johnson with Jason Garrison and Mark Barberio, and Valtteri Filppula saw a shift with Victor Hedman and Andrej Sustr.
“I thought there was lots of room and if we would have kept, we went back to the four-on-three, but if we would have stayed like that something can happen because there’s so much room and there’s lots of skills on the ice,” Bergeron said.
Marchand also added that he’d definitely be in support of three-on-three being utilized before a shootout was.
“I think it would definitely allow for more goals and opportunities,” he said.
Though Julien didn’t offer much of an opinion of the three-on-three after the game, the sentiments he expressed in his pregame press conference on Thursday morning reinforced the idea that he would also rather have games decided by group play.
“Personally I’m more of a team-oriented coach I guess, which I always believe that this is a team sport and should be decided by a team,” he said. “I’d like to see it decided in a way that its more than just one player against a goaltender. Whether it’s four-on-four or three-on-three, it’s still a group. I think that’s the way games should be decided.
“For some reason we’ve decided that there needs to be a winner every game,” he added. “Sometimes a lot of people can go home really happy having seen a game that was well played, that was tight at the end of it, was exciting to watch versus people going home feeling like they didn’t do a great job because they lost in the shootout. It really tarnishes the outcome of the whole game. That’s my personal opinion on it.”