Bruins ride Ryder's goal
Division clinched with penalty shot
There is little doubt that when Michael Ryder is skating, hitting, and emotionally engaged, he can be a go-to wing.
Lately, that hasn’t been the case. For last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Philadelphia and Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over Chicago, Ryder was a healthy scratch. The last two games, with Shawn Thornton unavailable, Ryder skated on the fourth line.
Yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers may be a launching pad to Ryder’s revival.
With one of his signature whip-like snappers, Ryder went high glove on Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec to bury a penalty shot at 12:31 of the third period, the deciding strike in the Bruins’ victory before 17,565 at TD Garden.
With the win, the Bruins clinched the Northeast Division title, and at worst they will be the No. 3 seed to start the playoffs.
“It was nice to see him score that goal,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Obviously, it turned out to be a big goal for us. These are steps in the right direction. When he starts feeling confident about doing those things and doing them without overthinking, he’s going to be a good player again.’’
Ryder earned the penalty shot by winning the puck from Zach Bogosian — one of two costly cough-ups by a defenseman once considered a rising star — and streaking away on goal. As Ryder approached the net, Johnny Oduya hooked him with enough force to send the right wing skidding to the ice.
“Skating right into the middle of a trap and then flipping the puck into the air,’’ Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said of Bogosian’s mistake. “That is a detail we have talked about a lot.
“Everybody should know by now you just can’t skate into the trap. You just don’t skate right into the middle of it. The way we beat it a couple times was our deep cycle and our deep regroup, and the defense gives it to the center.’’
Ryder, with the snow from his tumble still covering the back of his jersey, launched a riser over Pavelec.
“It was a big goal for us,’’ Ryder said. “We wanted to make sure we got the win today. We’ve played better games, but as long as we got the 2 points, that’s the main thing.’’
Had Thornton not had his forehead sliced open on Tuesday, Ryder might have continued to be the odd man out up front. Before yesterday, Ryder hadn’t scored a goal since Feb. 27.
Ryder is a skilled forward, not a banger. But by starting him on the fourth line the last two games, Julien’s message was clear. Ryder had to skate and play physical. Given his recent history, he would not be granted top-nine ice time automatically. Ryder had to earn it.
Yesterday, Ryder (13:26 of ice time) got his chance. With Ryder improving and Tyler Seguin (one shot on goal in 11:56) misfiring, Julien gave the veteran several shifts on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.
“Just a chance for him to understand that he’s making steps in the right direction and, ‘Here you go, a little bit more ice here on a different line,’ ’’ Julien said. “We’ll see where that goes.’’
The Bruins trailed, 2-1, early in the second. After a flurry in front of the Boston net, Evander Kane buried a shot at 1:37.
But Daniel Paille wiped out the Thrashers’ advantage. At 5:47 of the second, Shane Hnidy went to the penalty box after floating a puck over the glass. On Atlanta’s power play, Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien started the breakout deep in their end. But Bogosian muffed the exchange and Paille picked off the pass. Before Pavelec could get himself set, Paille flicked a fast-moving shot high blocker at 6:18 to even the score.
This season, Paille has found it more difficult than even Ryder to find consistent playing time. Paille has been a healthy scratch for 35 games.
Paille, however, is pushing hard for active duty in the playoffs. The last four games, Paille has been the fourth-line left wing and a penalty killer with Gregory Campbell.
Yesterday, Paille landed two shots on goal in 13:10 of ice time. Because of Paille’s speed, flexibility, and defensive acumen, he could be a valuable depth forward in the postseason.
“I feel great,’’ Paille said. “I think I feel faster and just more patient on a lot of plays. I feel really happy with it right now.’’
The lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs is far from set. Ryder and Paille, once down-and-out forwards, are pushing for spots. Other than a first-period hiccup — he played the puck outside the trapezoid, then couldn’t get a good bead on Byfuglien’s long-distance one-timer — Tuukka Rask (28 saves) battled. He may only play once or twice more until he gives up the crease full-time to Tim Thomas.
But Rask knows that if Thomas falters or gets hurt, he’ll get the call.
“You want to be in the lineup,’’ Ryder said. “Nobody wants to be out. It’s frustrating and I’ve been there before, so I know what it takes to get back in.
“It’s just working hard and finding your game. Not letting the little things get to you. Just make sure when you get back in that you take advantage of the chances you get.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.