Bruins met goals on Calif. swing
West Coast offense got them moving
DENVER -- For the last two games, the Bruins have been the Heart Attack Kids. They've made first-year coach Mike Sullivan, whose chronological age is 35, feel about 60 in a span of only two days.
Against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night, they rebounded from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win, 4-3, in regulation. On Sunday night, they rallied from being down, 3-1, to the Mighty Ducks and triumphed, 4-3, in overtime.
They have won three in a row heading into tonight's trip finale against the Colorado Avalanche. They've parlayed strong goaltending by both Andrew Raycroft and Felix Potvin and steady defense into early success, and now the forwards are finally awake after being publicly challenged by general manager Mike O'Connell prior to a contest in Dallas last week.
Against Anaheim, Sergei Samsonov was the hero when he potted the winner with just 52 seconds remaining in OT. It was just the second goal of the season for the talented winger, who said it's taken him some time to get his legs under him after being moved from line to line. Sullivan now has him skating with center Travis Green and right wing Marty Lapointe.
"It's been a little bit tough," said Samsonov. "I haven't played on the same line for a long time. It's been either a new centerman or a new wing so it's been an adjustment. I think the more games and the more practices we play in with whoever I'm going to play with, I'm sure we're going to find a way.
"It's one of those things where you have to play for a little bit with each other and learn from it. You have to get used to each other everywhere, in the defensive zone and in the neutral zone and offensive zone. I haven't played a lot with Travis. I've played a little bit with Marty before. I think we've had only two practices and this is our second game so it's been an adjustment."
It has taken all of the forwards time to get going. After a three-goal output in the season opener against New Jersey, the club tallied a total of four goals in the next three games. Now, the Bruins have generated four in each of the last two. Samsonov isn't worried about it just yet.
"You're not going to score every game, I guess, but it's always nice to get one," said Samsonov. "We haven't exactly scored a lot of goals as a team. I haven't really put that much pressure on myself that I need to score goals. We're trying to establish a team concept first and personal goals later. We're trying to get four balanced lines so we can roll four lines without some guys playing 25 or 30 minutes a game.
"I think our goals are going to come. I think it's just a matter of getting our confidence. [In Anaheim] we didn't get many power plays and we've been killing a lot in the last three games, so if you put everything together, our scoring goes down because of that." . . .
They don't receive much ink, but it's impossible not to notice the contribution made by the Bruins' fourth line of center Ted Donato, left wing Michal Grosek, and right wing Sandy McCarthy. McCarthy's goal ignited Boston's comeback in LA, and the three have provided a steady defensive presence while giving the top forwards a much-needed break.
"They're an energy line and they simplify their game," said Sullivan. "But they really help us control momentum and generate momentum and they get a few scoring chances. They don't play as many minutes as the other lines, but they're a huge part of our team right now."
Donato, in his second stint as a Bruin, said the objective is to try to trap the other team in their own zone and make them play defense.
"We try to maybe change the momentum if things aren't going well or keep the momentum if things are going well," he said. "Obviously, Michal Grosek and Sandy McCarthy are a physical presence out there. It's my job to put them in positions where they can be physical and take advantage of the other team's defense.
"I thought against LA, Sandy and Mike both had some good hits on their `D' and wore those guys down. Then, when our big guns get out there, I think sometimes it has a little bit of an effect."
Donato played 49 games for the New York Rangers last year, all with McCarthy, and he had Dan LaCouture on the other wing.
"The bottom line is, when you win hockey games, that stuff usually gets appreciated a little bit more, and when you don't, it doesn't," said Donato.
. . .
Defenseman Nick Boynton took 17 minutes in penalties against the Ducks and is now the team leader with 28 for the season. He took an instigator penalty after Anaheim defenseman Ruslan Salei drilled Joe Thornton into the end boards. Boynton took issue with it and charged Salei, turning what would've been a Boston power play into matching minor penalties, matching fighting majors, and a misconduct for Boynton. He knows he has to rein himself in at times. "Definitely," he said. "If I could do it again, I probably wouldn't do the same thing. I wouldn't have charged in there but I thought Joe was hurt and that makes the difference. I play pretty emotionally but I have to use it to do other things a little better rather than hurt the team." Boynton is impressed by his team's resilience. No matter what seems to happen early in a game, they are there in the end. "We got down a couple of penalties there at the start [against the Ducks] and they got up, but I didn't think we were playing bad at all," he said. "In LA, we had a horrible first period but I thought we played a pretty good full game. We battled back. I think that's a big thing because, last year anyways, we really seemed to struggle trying to get back into games. It's encouraging and really good for a team this early in the season to learn how to win and to learn how to finish the game like that."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.