Marchand, Rask lift shorthanded Bruins
The Bruins rolled along easily to a 3-0 win over the Kings last night at the Garden, looking very much like a team that won a Stanley Cup just six months ago, even though captain Zdeno Chara (injured knee) was missing, along with top checking center Greg Campbell (fractured bone in foot).
Brad Marchand scored a couple of goals (Nos. 10, 11). Tuukka Rask turned back 41 shots, including 20 in the third period, for his first shutout of the season. And overall, the Bruins tooled the Kings like a bunch of church league bantams at the faceoff dot, winning 64 percent of the drops, including a pair by Patrice Bergeron that led directly to Marchand’s strikes.
Neat. Tidy. Impressive. Good teams win when they are minus key players.
On the other hand, the beleaguered Kings, losers of five straight, too often played like a luxury Christmas line of misfit toys. They’ve got some real talent in their lineup, but their underperformance this season cost Terry Murray his job as coach on Monday and they didn’t look much better, or cohesive, under interim coach John Stevens last night.
“I thought they played a hard game,’’ said Bruins winger Rich Peverley, whose first goal since Nov. 12 provided the 1-0 lead in the first period. “They put up a lot of shots, but they’re looking for their identity. They fired the coach so obviously they are trying to change things.’’
Meanwhile, the Bruins are trying to be the first club since the Red Wings in 1997 and ’98 to repeat as Cup champions. After opening the season playing like a new TV drama crying out to be canceled in the first month, they have swash-buckled their way through the last seven weeks with a 16-2-1 mark, pushing the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They have won two straight and they’ll try for win No. 20 tonight in Ottawa.
Rask was the key to win No. 19. Though the Kings didn’t test him greatly, they eventually gained critical mass in the offensive end, generating 80 shots to Boston’s 46. Forty-one of those made their way to Rask, but his own shot management and the puck control of his makeshift defensive corps did a decent job of not allowing LA much in the way of key follow-up chances.
Rask, who was brought in to relieve two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas after two periods Saturday night in Columbus, is supposed to yield to Thomas this evening. That was the plan announced by coach Claude Julien following yesterday morning’s workout. But Julien hinted after the shutout, the ninth of Rask’s career, that he could come back with the Finnish goalie again - what would be only his second back-to-back start this season.
“Tell you tomorrow,’’ a smiling Julien said.
Peverley’s strike, the first of the three the Bruins scored at even strength, came at 6:32 on a sweet feed from emergency call-up Zach Hamill. Peverley streaked the slot and Hamill, with help from Benoit Pouliot, dished from goal line to crease for Peverley to make the easy forehand tap past Jonathan Quick.
“That,’’ said Julien, referring to Hamill’s dish, “is a play that NHL players make.’’
Marchand’s first came at 7:43 into the second on a textbook predetermined play that had Bergeron filching the puck from Colin Fraser on a draw to Quick’s right. Bergeron pulled back the puck cleanly to Marchand, standing some 15 feet behind him, and Marchand snapped off a quick one-timer to the top left corner.
“We’ve tried that a lot this year and it hasn’t worked,’’ said Marchand. “A lot has to go right. It’s nice when it works.’’
Marchand’s second, the jawbreaker, came 5:35 into the third, Bergeron catching him with a pass near the crease moments after the crafty center added one to his pile of 13 faceoff wins. Cutting left to right across the top of the paint, Marchand finished with a nifty backhander, and down went the sun on Sunset Boulevard.
“If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best in the league,’’ said Marchand, referring to Bergeron’s faceoff prowess. “And that’s big, because you don’t want to spend the whole night chasing pucks.’’
Had Chara been among the back-line six-pack, little chance the Kings would have fired 80 shots. Such volume is a clear indicator that Julien will have to get his blue liners, including returnee Steven Kampfer, to tighten up their spacing and rub out advances before the opposition crosses the blue line. Teams with greater confidence than the Kings likely would have made some hay with such a great number of chances.
“I could feel the momentum changing a couple of times,’’ said Rask. “Maybe we weren’t our sharpest in the third period. Some of that was because [Chara] was missing, and some of it is that we have to tighten up, too. But, it wasn’t too bad.’’
In fact, it was two points, and right now the Bruins keep piling them up.