(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

A controversial missed shootout attempt, a pair of squandered breakaways, and a lackluster effort in overtime just about summed up David Pastrnak’s recent four-game road trip with the Boston Bruins. Though Pastrnak still collected four points in that span, the National Hockey League All-Star’s overall performance was overshadowed by his miscues. So when Pastrnak and the Bruins returned to home ice at the TD Garden on Monday for a matinee matchup with the New Jersey Devils, it was time to hit the reset button.

Pastrnak pieced together a signature performance, scoring a goal and an assist in Boston’s 3-0 blanking of the Devils. Pastrnak was a +1 in 20:16 of time on ice, playing a full 60 minutes in front of the home crowd. A long road trip can be draining, and Pastrnak is relieved to be able to hit the reset button back in the comforts of Boston.

“As a player or pro athlete, you’re always looking for a little reset,” Pastrnak told BNG’s Tom Caluatti after Monday’s win. “The season is long, and the experience I have with great guys to learn from and mentors throughout my career, you got to look for some reasons. It’s good to be coming back home and play in front of your friends and spend time with the family. As a pro athlete, you’re looking for these little things and little details, and it was a good reset for me to get back home.”

Pastrnak’s rut began on a shootout attempt against the Colorado Avalanche in the first game of the trip, attempting to sneak a somewhat nonchalant wrist shot through Alexander Georgiev’s five-hole. This ignited a media firestorm, attracting criticism from Bruins fans who claimed Pastrnak should be benched for the denial. 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Mike Felger described the attempt as an “insult to sports,” continuing to say he should face a team suspension.

It’s safe to say that claims are a bit of an overreaction, as Pastrnak has earned his right to showcase his creativity in that setting due to his profound success in the past, especially this season. But that was only the beginning of Pastrnak’s frustrations on the trip out west. The very next game, he misfired on a pair of crucial breakaways that could have ended the game in regulation. Instead, the Black and Gold fell in overtime by a score of 4-3 to the Arizona Coyotes.

However, Pastrnak’s worst infraction came in overtime against the Vegas Golden Knights in the third straight overtime or shootout loss on the trip. Mark Stone glided up the middle in the three-on-three overtime period, drifting past a flat-footed Pastrnak for an easy two-on-one opportunity headed toward Jeremy Swayman. Pastrnak didn’t backcheck, leading to a tap-in goal for Alex Pietrangelo on the cross-crease pass from Stone. In the first three matchups of the road stint, Pastrnak was a combined -6, and something needed to change. A two-point, +1 performance against the St. Louis Blues got Pastrnak trending in the right direction on the last leg of the trip, but it wasn’t until Monday’s meeting with the Devils that Pastrnak looked to be himself. A signature one-timer on the power play headlined his two-point performance, blasting a feed from Charlie McAvoy on the left face-off dot.

“He’s hard on himself,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after the win. “He expects great things from himself, and I always know, like when we were in St. Louis, I went to talk to him in the morning skate, and he’s done this to me several times; he cuts me off and doesn’t allow me to talk. And he says, ‘I’m going to be good tonight. Don’t worry about it.’ His effort in St. Louis was really good, and then you combine talent and effort, production comes, and that’s what happened tonight.”

All players experience slumps, and the fact that Pastrnak could still produce four points in that four-game stretch should be comforting for Bruins fans. Boston’s All-Star won’t always be perfect on the defensive end, but if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s putting the puck in the net–and the Bruins would be nowhere near 26-8-9 without his line of 26-35-61 this season.