Bruins turn on the jets
They erase two-goal deficit, top Winnipeg
There were times last year when opponents such as Montreal made the Bruins look like elephants. Their forwards’ legs were so heavy that the coaching staff introduced a tweak - they had to regroup deeper in the defensive zone to generate speed through center ice - to negate one of the club’s major shortcomings.
Last night, the Bruins proved there is no such shortage of top-shelf wheels. Of the bunch’s burners - Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, and Daniel Paille are among the fleeter forwards - Rich Peverley might be the fastest of all. In the Bruins’ 3-2 win over Winnipeg last night in front of 17,565 at TD Garden, Peverley’s legs led to two Chris Kelly goals, including the winner.
In the second period, while killing a Nathan Horton tripping penalty, Peverley flew past Zach Bogosian down the right flank and muscled off Dustin Byfuglien. Peverley didn’t score on the rush. But Kelly, following the play, scored on the rebound at 7:28 to tie the game at 2.
“I had a step on Buff and I tried to take it to the net a little bit,’’ Peverley said. “I thought I had a chance to get it in, but it was just sitting there. Great job by Kells to get it in the net.’’
Later in the period, Peverley used his speed once more. Peverley took a pass from Benoit Pouliot at the defensive blue line and shifted immediately into high gear. Because of how swiftly Peverley gained the offensive zone, the Winnipeg defenders sagged back. When Peverley chipped the puck back to Pouliot, the left wing had loads of time and space because of how far Peverley had pushed the Jets toward the goal.
Pouliot looked to his right and saw Kelly. After taking a cross-ice pass from Pouliot, Kelly winged a one-timer that floated past Ondrej Pavelec (32 saves) for the winning goal at 16:26.
Brad Marchand added an empty-net goal at 18:51 of the third to seal the win, the Bruins’ 11th in 12 games.
“We’ve talked about how much better our game is because we’ve added some speed,’’ said coach Claude Julien of Peverley (two assists and four shots in 18 minutes 27 seconds of ice time). “He’s one of those guys that’s come in since the trade deadline last year and added that element. He’s been very, very good at using his outside speed, and even cutting toward the net and scoring some goals. Tonight, he cut to the net and did what he had to do. Kells was right there on the spot to bang it in. That’s been something we’ve seen a lot of from him this year.’’
The Bruins needed every bit of Peverley’s speed and Kelly’s scoring touch last night. Early in the first, the Bruins didn’t have their legs, and the Jets took advantage.
In the first period, Joe Corvo made an ill-advised decision to engage in a puck battle at center ice. Corvo missed, leaving Dennis Seidenberg alone to fend off an odd-man rush. After taking a pass from Byfuglien, Evander Kane beat Tim Thomas (40 saves) by pulling the puck to his backhand and slipping it home at 9:31.
Thirty-nine seconds later, the Jets struck again. After the Jets won a battle along the boards, the puck hopped out to Byfuglien at the right point. With traffic in front, Byfuglien hammered a slap shot that eluded Thomas.
Julien had seen enough. He called his timeout to calm his troops and remind them to find their legs.
“We weren’t skating well at that point,’’ Julien said. “We were getting the puck and looking. Our neutral-zone speed just wasn’t there at all. We were standing still a lot. That wasn’t the way we needed to play. We wanted to have a good first period. It wasn’t happening. I just felt that at that time, we needed to refocus and slow things down a bit.’’
At 16:38 of the first and on the power play, Zdeno Chara slapped a puck that ricocheted off Mark Stuart’s stick and past Pavelec, making it a 2-1 game. Kelly added his pair of second-period strikes to complete the rally.
But the Bruins still needed Thomas to bail them out in the third. Thomas’s best stuff came with approximately three minutes remaining. Bryan Little had some room on the left wing and snapped off a sharp-angle shot. Thomas kicked out Little’s shot with his left pad. Kane followed with a close-range shot as Thomas’s momentum was pulling him out of the crease. But Thomas stayed square enough to flash his left pad once more and boot out Kane’s attempt.
“In those situations, half the net was still open for Kane,’’ Thomas said. “Through experience, I’ve let in goals like that where I’ve tried to get over and cover up the other half, but then I open up the five-hole. My experience has helped me protect the part of the net that you can. It worked out for me that time.’’