The Bruins are grinding. Even in a six-goal outburst, their biggest offensive explosion of the season, the Bruins made a 6-2 win over Carolina tighter than it should have been.
The Hurricanes swarmed the Bruins in the first period. They punched in two third-period goals and nearly added a third.
“Defensively, I think if you look at the goals against, we’ve been pretty good,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask. “But I don’t think we’re the best we can be in that area. Especially today. We had a couple letdowns there.”
These are the dog-day stretches when the Bruins need their hard hats to pull the chain. On Monday night at TD Garden, Gregory Campbell assumed that role.
Campbell is usually the fourth-line center. The coaching staff demands short, hard, efficient shifts from Campbell and his linemates – usually Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton – to wear down opponents.
But with the Bruins without Patrice Bergeron, their best center, they asked Campbell to take on a top-six position against Carolina. It is a role in which Tyler Seguin came up short against New Jersey and Montreal. Rich Peverley would have been another option, but the ex-Thrasher has been struggling all season.
Monday night, Campbell centered Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. Campbell submitted a two-assist performance in 15:29 of ice time. It was exactly the type of game the Bruins needed from their No. 2 center.
“His style is not fancy,” said coach Claude Julien. “It’s about straightforward. It’s about hard work. It’s about getting pucks to the net and getting his nose dirty in all areas. He’s a decent centerman for those guys who like to move the puck around. He made room for those guys. He opened up some passing lanes.”
The thing that made Campbell effective during his promotion was that he didn’t change his game. The Bruins needed some grit and snarl on the line to increase puck possession and create scoring chances. Campbell went about his straight-line business in the usual fashion.
In the first period, Campbell filled the crease and jammed a backhander on goal. Justin Peters stopped Campbell’s shot, but Marchand crashed the net and scored on the rebound to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 7:58. It was the first of Marchand’s two goals.
Campbell picked up his second assist early in the second period. First, Campbell rotated up to the right point to cover for Andrew Ference, who had tracked down low. Campbell snapped a pass to Dennis Seidenberg. Seidenberg’s shot ticked off Ference and hit the back of the net at 3:57, giving the Bruins a 4-0 lead.
There was nothing pretty about Campbell’s game save for the results.
“Those two are easy to play with,” Campbell said.
“I’m not taking anything away from my usual linemates. Everybody brings a different skill set on this team. Those guys are pretty unique. They’re gifted offensively.
“They make space for you. They do some really creative things on the ice. It’s more about reading off them, giving them space, and letting them do what they do.”
The Bruins need big-game performances from players such as Campbell to help them bridge this final stretch toward the playoffs, when the energy should rise once more.
Fourth-line wing Jordan Caron, who had been a regular healthy scratch, punched in his first goal of the season. Ference doesn’t linger in the offensive zone very often, but the stay-at-home defenseman was in position to deflect Seidenberg’s shot in the second.
The Bruins needed their hard hats. Carolina dropped its fifth straight game. Injuries have ripped the Hurricanes apart. They were without Cam Ward, Joni Pitkanen, Justin Faulk, and Alexander Semin – skilled players at every position.
The JV Hurricanes still managed to make life difficult on the Bruins. In the first period, when the Bruins had yet to find their legs, the Hurricanes swarmed Rask.
When the Bruins coughed up the puck, Rask (18 saves in the first 20 minutes) had to use every piece of his equipment to keep his net clear.
“I didn’t think we were very good in that area,” Julien said of his team’s defense.
“We’re not at our best defensively. But this is a team that will expose you more with their aggressive forecheck from all five guys sitting right on top of you. That exposed us tonight, no doubt about that.
“We’ve got to get better in that area. Tuukka really played a solid game for us tonight and probably covered a lot of the mistakes on the damage they could have done.”