Bruins respond on road
Savard, Thomas the stars in trip-opening victory
DALLAS - Because of his elite wrister and knack for finding seams from which to release his shot, Michael Ryder has a reputation of being a pure goal scorer. Last night, playing with Marc Savard on the Bruins’ No. 1 line for the first time this season, Ryder didn’t score a goal, but he showed how dangerous he can be when he brings his all-around game.
Ryder skated well. He backchecked aggressively. He was anything but tentative when throwing around his body. It was no surprise, then, that Ryder set up two Savard goals to help power the Bruins to a much-needed 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars before 17,811 at American Airlines Center.
“I thought [Ryder] had a good game,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “That line was good for us tonight. Him and Savvy were coming back and working hard. When those guys come back and work out of our own end as a unit, they’re a lot more successful. I thought Michael was strong on the puck and made some good plays. Even without the puck, his puck pursuit was good. But that was basically the story of our whole team tonight. I don’t know that we had anybody that you could be really disappointed about.’’
The Bruins, coming off a 2-3 season-opening homestand, were hungry for a complete performance against a Dallas club that hadn’t lost in regulation. In the two practices leading up to the game, the Bruins were crisper in Julien’s view. But they also showed a sense of desperation and resolve last night that had been missing for most of their TD Garden appearances.
“I think we’ve already had the doubt earlier on,’’ said Tim Thomas, who earned the shutout with 27 saves. “We went into this game to turn it around and get back to playing the way we want to play.’’
In the first period, with Mike Ribeiro in the box for high-sticking, the Bruins netted a rare power-play goal. In the 7-2 win over Carolina Oct. 3, the Bruins went 4 for 8 on the power play. But in their other four games, the Bruins had gone 0 for 21 on the power play.
On last night’s opening goal, Marco Sturm, switched back to his natural position on the left side, chipped the puck into the offensive zone. Ryder, who had built speed in the neutral zone, sprinted after the dump-in and jostled Karlis Skrastins, preventing the defenseman from settling the puck. Sturm, who also had joined the forecheck, poked the puck away from Stephane Robidas to Savard. The center curled out from behind the net, into the slot, and sent a shot on goal that skimmed off Robidas’s stick and between Marty Turco’s pads at 13:32.
“I told [Blake Wheeler] before the game I was going to get one like that,’’ Savard said. “Just a quick spin, fake that I was going to pass, then fire it at his feet. It got a couple bounces on the way, but it’s always nice to get those. It was a great forecheck. Sturmy got the [blue] line hard, Mike went in and finished his check, and the puck came right to me.’’
The Bruins doubled their lead at 3:35 of the second period. After winning an offensive-zone draw, Patrice Bergeron went to the front of the net. When Mark Stuart snapped a shot on goal from the point, Bergeron was in position to tip the puck past Turco.
Savard scored again later in the second after another aggressive play by Ryder. He carried the puck down the left side, crossed the blue line, then darted into the middle of the ice. From the other wing, Sturm drove to the net, taking a defenseman with him and creating a seam in the slot. Ryder gave the puck to Savard, who had just rolled over the boards in place of Bergeron. The center one-timed a sharp-angled shot past Turco at 7:59. It was a tough goal for Turco to allow, as the Stars had started to swing the momentum their way.
“I crossed over the blue line and he was yelling for it,’’ Ryder said of Savard. “I was just waiting for a good spot to give it to him. He just threw it on net and managed to find a hole. We wanted to make sure we threw pucks on net tonight. That was one of our main objectives - get pucks to the net and go there.’’
But the Bruins were quick to point out that a first-period play, when the game was scoreless, helped steer them in the right direction. Jamie Benn had slipped behind Andrew Ference and ripped a slapper on goal from the left wing. Thomas stopped Benn’s shot, but Loui Eriksson, who netted 36 goals last season, was lurking in the slot, sniffing for the rebound. Stuart, positioned in the slot, was in the right place to track down the puck and sweep it away from Eriksson’s reach.
“We were better in tight around our net,’’ Julien said. “Our commitment was better. Even in our D-zone, our pursuit after the puck carrier was a little more intense. We were kind of passive. Our D-zone coverage was very passive. But our puck pursuit tonight was more aggressive, which helped us turn pucks over a little quicker and get us going on offense.’’
Seamless goaltending. Aggressive puck pursuit. Timely scoring. Physical play.
Sounds a whole lot like last season’s Bruins.