Bruins just can’t lose
They finish road trip at a sparkling 6-0-0
KANATA, Ontario — It was closer than it had to be, or maybe should have been, but the Bruins survived a case of traveler’s lethargy last night and pinned a 1-0 loss on the Senators, completing a two-week trip with a perfect 6-0-0 record and a reservoir spilling over in strut and confidence.
“It feels great,’’ said a beaming Milan Lucic, the Bruins clicking off six straight on the road for the first time since February 1972. “The last two games, we didn’t have the same energy that we did in the first four games, but we found a way. It helps us to build that confidence in the room, that no matter who we face, or no matter what the conditions, we believe in each other.’’
The trip-closing triumph came with Tuukka Rask turning back 33 shots for the shutout, improving his record to 9-11-1, while his teammates mustered but 21 shots on Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
After 40 minutes of listless legs, bad passing, and near-shapeless offense, the Bruins connected for the night’s only goal at 1:43 of the third period, a Nathan Horton putaway from the top of the crease after some coal miner’s work by Patrice Bergeron on the rear wall. The versatile Bruins center three times shielded the puck from slick Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, then delivered a relay high to the zone for defenseman Adam McQuaid to rip on net. Brad Marchand provided a tip that Anderson stopped, but the reawakening Horton knocked in what proved to be the winner.
“Great play by Bergeron there behind the net,’’ said Horton, with a goal in each of the last three games after a protracted offensive hibernation. “That’s what we’ve been talking about lately, getting pucks on net, traffic, screens, and then I had a little bit of luck there with the way [the puck] popped out.’’
For all his expert work on the play, Bergeron got all of nothing on the score sheet: goal by Horton, assists to Marchand and McQuaid.
“Yeah, but in the end, guys realize the work Berg did there,’’ said Lucic. “He stepped up there and made a big play at a big time. We all get that. Too bad there are no third assists in this league, right?’’
For their two weeks away from Causeway Street, the Bruins hung up a half-dozen W’s and outscored the opposition, 20-9. They dumped the Senators (twice), Islanders, Flames, Canucks, and Oilers. A nice body of work, no matter that all on that list are considered cupcakes except the Canucks and Flames. Truth is, the Bruins played their best against those two impressive clubs.
During that ’72 trip, the Bruins rubbed out Philadelphia, Minnesota, Chicago, Vancouver, California, and Los Angeles, by a collective 30-19. Different times, of course. The swashbuckling Big Bad Bruins were in their sunset seasons by then, even if they didn’t know it.
They wrapped up that ’72 trip with a 5-4 edging of the Kings at the Fabulous Forum Feb. 26, and less than 90 days later marched around Madison Square Garden with the Stanley Cup. Fans of the Black and Gold still wait for the next Cup parade.
“This is good for us at this stage of the season,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We’ve got some new faces in the lineup and this helps us to build some momentum. Obviously, the confidence is tremendous, they believe they can do it.’’
Now 37-19-7 with 75 points, the Bruins are on pace to finish with about 98 points. A strong finish over these last 19 games could bring them 100 points for the second in three seasons. But overall, they look more complete, more finished as a unit, than at any time under Julien’s tutelage. The recent acquisitions of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Tomas Kaberle lifted the tide at a critical time, just as the club began doubting itself after humbling back-to-back losses to the Red Wings.
Now it’s a team that will arrive on Garden ice tomorrow night, ready to face the Lightning, with abundant confidence and a road résumé to match.
“We’re building our identity as a team,’’ said Lucic. “It’s all about identity and trust — trust in the room. The new guys have come in and they just seem like a perfect fit . . . all three of them have done a great job so far.’’
Another huge key of late has been Rask, who sat for long stretches much of this season, Julien without the confidence to start him. Rask ended up with four of the W’s on the trip, twice winning in back-to-back starts.
“Always good to finish on a winning note, 6-0 is huge for us,’’ said Rask. “I’ve had some ups and down, and winning is always one thing, it gives you that extra boost of confidence.’’