Bruins show a little polish
Even their power play has a shining moment
Last night’s scoresheet indicates a 4-1 win for the Bruins over New Jersey, with four straight Black-and-Gold goals. Hyperbole, perhaps, to claim that a fourth-line grinder’s goal was one of the more important scores of the season for the gear-grinding Bruins.
But consider the circumstances. Just one win in their last seven games. Two pace-setting practices in a row to break some bad habits and instill some character. The Canadiens, in town tomorrow, just 1 point behind at the start of the night.
Not panic, but certainly some nerves around the Boston dressing room.
Then after all that, to get outshot by a 14-1 count to start the game and fall behind, 1-0, in the first period.
“It’s got to start from us,’’ coach Claude Julien said of his staff. “When we saw what was going on, we knew the guys felt the pressure of not winning lately. What we started doing was talking about the adjustments we had to make.
“We were explaining how they were sitting on our wingers, how there wasn’t much room for the forwards, and how it was really up to the D’s to get through that first forechecker, carry the puck through the neutral zone, and get pucks deep and get our feet going.
“It was a matter of not panicking.’’
At 15:39 of the first, Shawn Thornton’s ninth goal — his first since Feb. 3 — wiped out New Jersey’s 1-0 lead, which came courtesy of an Ilya Kovalchuk power-play strike. Tomas Kaberle held the blue line and gave Dennis Seidenberg a D-to-D pass. As Seidenberg wound up, Thornton gained net-front position on defenseman Anssi Salmela.
David Krejci appeared to get his stick on Seidenberg’s shot. Then the puck skimmed off Thornton’s stick. The next thing goalie Martin Brodeur knew, the puck was behind him and the score was tied at 1-1.
“That was a big goal,’’ Julien said. “Good shot by Seids. An even better job by Thorny to be right in front there and being active with his stick.
“It was nice to see him get that goal and get us going there. It definitely did calm things down. Getting out of the first period tied is much better being down one goal, especially against that team.’’
The Bruins never glanced back. Zdeno Chara busted a 1-for-31 power-play skid with a goal at 8:17 of the second. Milan Lucic scored his 30th goal, set up by an against-the-grain pass from Patrice Bergeron, at 16:13 of the second. Mark Recchi capped the night with an empty-netter with 39.6 seconds remaining.
The win, paired with Montreal’s 2-0 loss to Buffalo, gave the Bruins a 3-point cushion over the Canadiens in the Northeast Division.
“We knew the effort was going to be there today,’’ said Thornton. “We addressed the things we needed to address in practice. I think we did a good job of responding today.’’
The winning goal came on the power play, which had been poisonous. Upon the addition of Kaberle, it had been better aesthetically. But the results were flat-out disastrous. They weren’t just failing. They couldn’t generate any momentum during man-advantage play to carry over into even-strength action.
That finally changed last night. With New Jersey playing undisciplined hockey, rare for the Devils, the Bruins made their opponents pay. When Nick Palmieri was sent off for an offensive-zone tripping call on Chara, the Bruins got to work.
Lucic gained control of the puck, then found Kaberle at the point. Kaberle gave Lucic a return pass. Meanwhile, Chara drifted back-door. Lucic spotted Chara and hit him with a cross-ice pass. Before Brodeur could scramble over, Chara had tucked the puck home for a rare power-play goal.
It was Chara’s 400th career point.
“That was what was lacking in the last two games against Toronto and Nashville,’’ Lucic said. “We weren’t able to get that power-play goal to get ourselves back in the game or get ourselves back in the lead like we did tonight.
“That first one wasn’t much of a power play. But we started to settle down and made some good plays. We were a lot harder on the puck.’’
By the middle of the second period, the Bruins had erased what was once a 16-3 New Jersey shot advantage. With plenty of open ice beyond the first forechecker, the defensemen carried pucks through the neutral zone to negate the Devils’ trap.
That speed through center ice showed on the insurance goal. Chara carried over the blue line, walked into the slot, and put a shot on goal. Brodeur sticked it aside, but Bergeron gobbled up the rebound. Bergeron started to peel around the net, then sent a pass to Lucic. Brodeur, expecting a Bergeron wraparound, had no chance to stop Lucic’s shot.
“He’s a huge, strong guy,’’ Thornton said. “He gets a little more room than other guys because he’s so tough. So big and strong.’’
Tomorrow, the Canadiens await.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.