Bruins' third-period dominance showed up at key moment in Winter Classic

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Bruins' third-period dominance showed up at key moment in Winter Classic originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON -- The Bruins didn't play very well through the first 40 minutes of the 2023 Winter Classic. They didn't generate many quality scoring chances and gave up too many of them defensively. If not for the stellar play of goalie Linus Ullmark, the score could've been much worse than 1-0 entering the third period.

And yet there was still a strong belief among the players and fans that a comeback was more than possible.

Why is that?

Well, the Bruins are the best third-period team in hockey.

That was part of Nick Foligno's message to the team after he asked head coach Jim Montgomery if he could address the team during the second intermission.

"He just kinda got everybody in and just talked about our team, our team throughout the year and what we've been able to do and how we've been able to do it," Jake DeBrusk said after the game when asked about Foligno's talk.

"This is an event, and it's a dream come true and we don't want to waste it. You don't want to come after a game and think you could have done more or wish you had done something, because you never know -- we might not get another chance to do it. I think it was moreso the message of we know what we can do as a group. We're the best third period team in the league and let's go prove it."

The Bruins finally got on the board 7:46 into the third period when DeBrusk scored in front of the net. All of a sudden, the score was tied and the crowd had come to life. After trading chances for the next 10 minutes or so, DeBrusk put the Bruins ahead with another greasy goal in front.

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From that point on, the Bruins locked in defensively and Ullmark made a couple huge saves in the final minute to secure a 2-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 39,243 fans.

There are a lot of reasons why the Bruins are six points clear atop the league standings with a 29-4-4 record. One of the biggest factors in their early success has been third period dominance.

The Bruins have scored the second-most third-period goals with 54, and they've allowed the fewest with 23. Boston's plus-31 goal differential in the third period is the best in the league. The Dallas Stars, who have scored the most third-period goals with 55, have the second-best goal differential at plus-25.

Ironically, it was a stellar third period that powered the Bruins to a comeback win over the Penguins in their only other meeting earlier this season. Boston entered the third period of that Nov. 1 game trailing 5-3 and outscored Pittsburgh 2-0 in the final 20 minutes of regulation before Hampus Lindholm scored the winner in overtime.

These two victories over the Penguins are among the best examples of the Bruins' resiliency, which has been incredibly impressive to this point. These players have a very strong belief that if they continue to play their game and stick with what's worked for them, eventually they will be rewarded.

The Bruins will be in plenty more of these kinds of close matchups in the third period throughout the season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and their experience and success in these moments through the first 37 games will give them a ton of confidence that more comebacks and strong third period finishes are not only possible, but likely.