Tonight the NHL’s best Boston Bruins rolled into town to take on our banged up Winnipeg Jets in what would be the last game held at the MTS Center this season. The game had a try-out “feel” in ways, with the goaltending matchup even being a battle of the back-ups. Hutchinson was getting his second straight (and only) NHL start, and Chad Johnson was making his 23rd appearance for Boston, looking to record his impressive 18th win. Zdeno Chara was a healthy scratch, Devin Setoguchi was granted a leave of absence to deal with a personal matter. This is on top of both teams having numerous injuries.
The 1st period was very one sided. It was the Jets surprisingly that seemed to be the team carrying the play. They outshot the Bruins heavily and out chanced them. Evander Kane specifically had two chances with an open net and was unable to convert – Johnson made two very key saves early.
Olli Jokinen took a hooking penalty at 15:13 of the 1st period, the Jets killing it off with what looked like relative ease. The momentum shifted and the Jets returned to controlling the play down low, cycling the puck in the Bruins zone.
However, at 10:12 of the 1st period Boston’s Riley Smith fired the puck off the end boards (from his own side of center ice) and right onto Brad Marchand’s stick in the Jets zone. He then tucked the puck past an outstretched Michael Hutchinson. David Krejci also received an assist on the play and added another plus to his league leading (now) +40 rating.
The 1st period was a good representation of the Jets season. They stayed competitive all period – represented by their 12 – 6 shot count, but missed opportunities and an untimely miscue left the Jets trailing the Bruins 1 – 0 at the end of the 1st.
Boston looked to have been woken up by the time the puck was dropped for the 2nd period. They did however take a penalty, Caron went for a hook early, with 16:56 left in the 2nd. The Jets worked the puck around for the first minute of the powerplay quite well. Even setting up a one-timer cross ice from Wheeler to Enstrom. Chad Johnson slid across to make the save and Boston would clear the zone. The Jets would not convert on their powerplay attempt.
A few minutes later the Bruins’ Tori Krug was caught for a hook and immediately followed with Jets forward Eric Tangradi retaliating, getting called for the rough. They were not coincidental penalties and the teams went 4-on-4. It was an even two minutes and ended with Winnipeg’s Adam Pardy taking another hooking penalty at 7:12 left in the 2nd while Shawn Thornton drove the net.
The Bruins powerplay looked dangerous, but Michael Hutchinson and the Jets penalty kill held strong and kept the score at 1 – 0 in favour of the Bruins. Within seconds of killing off Pardy’s penalty, Marc Stuart took a high sticking penalty on Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand. The Bruins would get another opportunity on the powerplay, so far 0/2. It was on this being the third penalty kill of the night, that Michael Hutchinson made his save of the night. He slid across the net to rob Jarome Iginla of a yawning cage. The Jets cleared the zone and successfully killed off another penalty.
The 2nd period ended with the score remaining 1 – 0 for Boston. Boston had been pouring on the pressure for some time now in part due to the penalties being taken by the Jets defence core. Michael Hutchinson was big for the Jets in the 2nd period, standing tall. The Bruins outshot the Jets 15 – 8 in the second (20 WPG – 21 BOS overall).
The 3rd period opened with the teams playing end to end hockey and trading chances. Daniel Paille walked in and snapped a shot with Hutchinson kicking out his left pad. The rebound was then turned into a stretch pass to Blake Wheeler who took the puck wide in an attempt to do his patented puck protect and drive the net – to no avail. Chad Johnson once again stoned the Jets forward.
Within the same two and a half minute span, a brutal turn over and even worse change by the Jets resulted in a partial break for Brad Marchand who went to his back hand and made was denied by Hutchinson once again. The Jets again responded with pressure of their own yet again left the Bruins zone with nothing to show for their efforts.
In what had been a pretty neutral, but high paced 3rd period – the Jets began to pour it on with about 7:30 left in the 3rd. Olli Jokinen was denied in the slot and Johnson made a beautiful save with his left pad. The Bruins turned the puck over breaking out of their zone and Halischuk came in and tried to pick the short side. Again, doing his best to keep this game under Bruin control.
The Jets continued to pour on the pressure. It felt as if they were on the cusp of netting the tying goal. Evander Kane made a beautiful couple of moves to get to the slot and wired one off of the post. Time was now an issue with under three minutes remaining.
It was with just under two minutes remaining that Tobi Enstrom calmly evaded the Boston fore-check and dished the puck into the center of the ice to Blake Wheeler who drove wide and dropped the puck into the slot for Kane. With a quick flick of the wrist the mesh rippled and Kane had tied the game for the Jets and breaking Chad Johnson’s shutout bid.
OT was filled with end to end action. The Jets started with some pressure with a shot high on Johnson and a couple of deflections just wide of the net. The Bruins countered that with a few shots of their own (one off of a tired Blake Wheeler turn over) but they were promptly handled by the Jets goalie. It looked more and more like this goaltending dual was going to end in a shoot-out, and in a way I found that to be fitting. The refs wouldn’t allow that easily however, calling one final penalty on Olli Jokinen for a questionable hold as Iginla tried to fight past him for the puck in the Jets zone. The Bruins took to their final powerplay and held the zone looking dangerous and with six seconds left Hutchinson flashed some more glove on the Krejci slap shot. The horn sounded and the game headed to a shoot-out.
The Bruins would shoot first in what would be Hutchinson’s first NHL shoot-out. Riley Smith would miss, and Brian Little countered for a Jets goal. Spooner then shot for the Bruins and missed high and wide as well. Jokinen had the chance to win the game for the Jets, but Johnson shut the door with a solid pad save. Marchand had the last shot for the Bruins, but in typical fashion Hutchinson shut the door once again. The Jets prevailed over the Bruins in a 2-1 (SO) victory.
Although it was an irrelevant game for the Jets, they did a good job making it entertaining and giving the fans something to cheer about. While players auditioned for next year, it was the young goalies stole who the show. Johnson played amazingly well but came up empty tonight. Hutchinson finished as the games first star. He has made 48 of 50 (.960%) saves in his two NHL starts with the Jets and has impressed. He’s done a good job seizing the opportunity and has looked strong. The Jets will play the Calgary Flames next in what will be there last game of the season. Here’s hoping we get to see Hutchy one more time!