ST. LOUIS — Having lost six of their last seven games and scoring a combined 10 goals, the Boston Bruins found themselves in a precarious position Friday in their fight for a Stanley Cup playoff spot.
They came into their game against the red-hot St. Louis Blues with a one-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings for third place and the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. They watched on the scoreboard as the Red Wings earned a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues had allowed only one goal during a five-game winning streak, which made the matchup definitely more challenging for the Bruins.
“I told the players before the game anybody in this league can win on any given night so why not us?” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Just go out there and play to win and we did just that.”
It was close, however, as the Bruins — who got two goals and two assists from David Krejci — built a 5-2 lead before holding off the Blues for a 6-5 victory.
“It was kind of nerve wracking at the end of the game but we got the job done and at this point of the season that’s all that matters,” Krejci said. “A must win? I think we played with desperation and showed it tonight from the beginning.”
The game was tied 2-2 after a goal by the Blues’ Paul Stastny 5:39 into the second period, but the Bruins responded with three goals from Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano and Krejci to take the big lead into the final period.
“I liked our team’s reaction after they tied the game,” Julien said. “It would have been easy for us the way things have been going lately for us to get back on our heels but we went right back after it and managed to score three more goals. It was huge for us to be able to respond that way.”
It turned out the Bruins needed all that scoring — and more. Goals from Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangelo cut the Bruins’ lead to 5-4 early in the third period. The Blues could not come up with the tying goal, however, before Patrice Bergeron scored on a power-play — his 30th of the year — with 3:24 to play to restore the two-goal lead.
Kevin Shattenkirk made it a one-goal game again after the Blues pulled goalie Jake Allen, who took over for Brian Elliott at the start of the third period, in the closing seconds.
The Bruins and Red Wings have four games left in the regular season and neither is assured of making the playoffs if they do not finish third in the division.
“It definitely feels good to get the confidence back scoring some goals,” Bergeron said. “You need that down the stretch. We needed to score that many goals.
“Right now it’s about the wins and we found a way. You have to play desperate hockey every night. Every game right now, they are like that … but we have to make sure we only worry about that one game.”
The loss was important for the Blues, who are in their own battle with the Dallas Stars for first place in the Central Division and the Western Conference. They trail the Stars by two points, also with each team having four games left on the schedule.
“I think it’s been a helluva run,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Sometimes winning leads to losing. I think a lot of it is attitude and we’ve got a day to prepare tomorrow and get ready to play in Colorado. Obviously the race is on in both ends of it with us and Dallas. Obviously Chicago is right there too. We want to stay ahead of them.
“I think we’ve really got to clean up our execution. That starts tomorrow. Our execution has to be a lot better than it is. If we can clean that up, then we can start taking big steps forward again.”
Added Jaden Schwartz, who scored the Blues’ first goal: “They’re a desperate team, they were on us quick. They have some defensemen that can make some plays. They worked hard, but we’ve got to execute a little bit better.”
Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller had to leave the game in the first period after he slid hard into the boards while battling the Blues’ Magnus Paajarvi. He was helped off the ice with what was announced as a lower-body injury.
NOTES: LW Robby Fabbri did not play for the Blues after injuring his left leg in Tuesday night’s game. He did participate in the morning skate. LW Magnus Paajarvi replaced Fabbri in the lineup. … Blues RW Steve Ott, who has not played since suffering a torn hamstring Dec. 5, also skated Friday morning and might play Sunday in Colorado. … The game was the 1,400th in the NHL for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, tying him with Pat Quinn for seventh all-time. … D John-Michael Liles returned to the Bruins’ lineup after missing two games because of a lower-body injury. … The Bruins signed Boston University D Matt Grzelcyk to a two-year entry-level contract. He will report to Providence of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout contract. … The Bruins play in Chicago on Sunday.