Bruins end trip with finishing kick
They repel Avalanche for fourth straight win
DENVER -- When this six-game trip started, it had the makings for disaster. The Bruins couldn't score, couldn't stop opponents from scoring, and couldn't stay out of the penalty box. Their best players weren't playing that way and their goaltenders were overburdened by too many offensive chances and not enough help from their teammates.
But three contests into the journey, the Bruins turned their fortunes around. They capped their successful road show last night with a 4-1 victory over the potent Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, giving Boston four wins in a row and a 4-1-2-0 record heading home.
Captain Joe Thornton and right wing Glen Murray, called on the carpet along with their fellow forwards by general manager Mike O'Connell halfway through the trip, had three assists each and the Bruins had four goal scorers -- Jeff Jillson, Brian Rolston, Michal Grosek, and Mike Knuble.
"I thought our guys really competed," said coach Mike Sullivan. "We knew we were up against a highly-skilled team that really comes after you full force and we wanted to make sure we didn't get into the type of game where we traded chance for chance with those guys."
The mood in the dressing room was festive afterward but Sullivan stressed there's a very long way to go and plenty of work to be done.
"I think it's too early in the season to say we're a good road team," he said. "I think we've got some decent wins and there have been a lot of reasons behind that. It starts with our goaltending. They've been the backbone of our team so far. I thought we dodged a couple of bullets on this trip and we probably didn't deserve the fate we got but I think as this trip went on, our team has gotten better and better and we want to build on it."
Felix Potvin played his best game in a Bruins uniform, turning back 26 shots. After giving up a goal to Alex Tanguay just 1:13 into the contest, Potvin bricked up the net the rest of the way. The penalty killers, who had been underachieving earlier in the trip, turned in their best performance, nullifying all four Colorado power plays.
The Bruins tied the score at 10:58 on another terrific play by 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron. Left wing P.J. Axelsson, in the right circle, dished a pass to Bergeron, who was below the goal line to the left of netminder David Aebischer. With Rolston going to the net, Bergeron put a pass in front that hit off an Avalanche stick and went right to Rolston. He scored from the inside edge of the left circle to tie it. It was his fifth goal of the season and fifth in four games.
The Avalanche nearly retook the lead at 11:10 when center Joe Sakic broke in alone on Potvin but he hit the crossbar.
In the final minute, defenseman Jeff Jillson gave his teammates a 2-1 lead with his third goal of the season. With 44.8 seconds remaining, Murray dropped a pass to Jillson, who scored on a one-timer from the top of the right circle.
Boston outshot the Avalanche by a 17-8 count.
In the second, Potvin saved a goal at 7:38 when center Peter Forsberg wheeled from the right point to the top of the slot. His shot had top right corner written all over it but Potvin extended his glove and snared the puck.
At 12:33, Potvin came up big again. Right wing Milan Hejduk tested the netminder from the slot, which was stopped but Tanguay kept up the pressure, taking several whacks at the puck from outside the right post but Potvin kept him at bay.
The third Bruins goal, with only 1.6 seconds remaining in the period, came from an unlikely source. Grosek, who has contributed to the club's strong fourth line with Sandy McCarthy and Ted Donato, was fresh from the penalty box when the puck came his way. Thornton, along the right boards, tried to reach Murray with a pass in front but it caromed off a skate and into the slot. Grosek got to it and beat Aebischer from the inside edge of the right circle for his first point of the season.
Knuble sealed it at 10:37 of the third, scoring his fourth of the year and fourth in three games. Thornton, who took a pass from Murray, dished the puck from the inside edge of the left circle to Knuble, who was charging the net. He guided it past Aebischer and that was that. In all, Sullivan labeled the trip a success.
"I thought in the beginning, we didn't play the way we wanted to but as the trip went on, I thought we battled hard and competed and played better and better," he said. "I thought the last few games we really controlled our own destiny and that's the type of team we want to be."