Bruins perk up in third period to down Jets
Last night at TD Garden, the Bruins weren’t good in the first period. They were so-so in the second. But they sparkled in the third, which is when championship clubs expect to shine.
“We probably needed to respond that way in the first two periods,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “What we did in the third was basically our game plan.’’
The Bruins were down, 3-2, to the Jets after 40 minutes. But they exploded for three third-period goals to claim a 5-3 win over Winnipeg to bounce back from Saturday’s 4-3 setback against Vancouver.
Nathan Horton scored two goals, Tuukka Rask stopped 29 shots, and Shawn Thornton was an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick. Thornton scored a shorthanded penalty shot goal at 5:16 of the second and fought ex-teammate Mark Stuart later in the period.
The late fireworks, both from Thornton’s fists and his teammates’ sticks, were most welcome after a flat-line first period. Only a Horton goal in the final minute of the first prevented the Bruins from entering first intermission down, 1-0.
“We weren’t as engaged as much as we normally are,’’ Julien said. “Because of that, we seemed content to go back and forth with Winnipeg. They played hard. They were on top of us. They seemed to be winning those races to loose pucks. We were a good enough and a smart enough team to come out in the third with some desperation and some intent in our game to do the right things and find a way to win.’’
What Julien and the Bruins didn’t like was how the Jets imposed their will, physically and mentally, in the danger areas. In the first, Andrew Ladd took advantage of an opening in the slot to tip a Zach Bogosian shot past Rask at 16:53.
In the opening minute of the second period, the Bruins allowed Blake Wheeler to float into the slot. As Tobias Enstrom flicked a wrister on goal from the left point, the ex-Bruin, facing zero pushback from his former teammates, deflected the puck into the net at 0:31, giving the Jets a 2-1 lead.
After Thornton’s successful penalty shot tied it at 2, the Jets grabbed the game right back. Joe Corvo coughed up the puck, then got in the way of Eric Fehr’s sharp-angle attempt. Fehr’s shot skimmed off Corvo’s stick and beat Rask at 11:11 of the second.
“One of those games,’’ Rask said of his bad luck. “You’ve just got to battle. They had good tips. One off our skate. It happens. It’s just battling through that and working through it.’’
Fortunately for the Bruins, their experience and their jacked-up competitiveness lifted them in the third.
To start the third, Julien sent out his power line of Horton, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci. They had connected late in the first. After taking a behind-the-back outlet pass from Krejci, Lucic had barreled down the left wing and found Horton open on the lip of the crease for an easy tap-in.
Julien was seeking more of the same from the Czech and the Krechmates to open the third. He got it, with Horton scoring eight seconds in.
Krejci beat Bryan Little on the draw and pulled the puck back to Zdeno Chara. Chara banked the puck off the left-side wall for Lucic. In turn, Lucic tapped the puck off the boards, anticipating Krejci would cross over the offensive blue line and chase it down. Which he did.
As Krejci waited for the puck to land on his stick, he already knew where his next move would take him. Krejci believed, correctly, that Horton would head for the net.
“I knew he was there,’’ Krejci said. “Just passed it there and hoped for the best.’’
It’s real estate that Horton has reintroduced himself to this month after some earlier struggles. Last Thursday, Horton scored two goals and had an assist in the 9-0 thumping of the Flames. Horton was blanked against Vancouver Saturday, but played with bite and was a threat around the net.
Last night was no different.
“He’s doing more of what we’d talked about when we wanted him to be a better player,’’ Julien said. “He’s more engaged in the dirty areas. He’s battling. He’s being more physical than he had been. He’s a lot stronger on the puck. Near the net, he’s burying those chances. Earlier in the year he was there, but the goaltender was making those saves. He wasn’t burying his opportunities. When you look all those little things, it’s more about being engaged in all those areas.’’
As good as Boston’s heavyweight line was last night, the other skilled threesome was just as solid, even without Brad Marchand. At 3:06 of the third, Tyler Seguin scored the winning goal. Patrice Bergeron chipped the puck off the wall to Seguin, who exploded into the offensive zone, shook off a backchecking Randy Jones, and lifted a backhander over Ondrej Pavelec (37 saves).
Then at 6:41, Benoit Pouliot, Marchand’s fill-in, gave the Bruins breathing room with a power-play goal. After Pavelec stopped his first shot, Pouliot jammed in his own rebound to give the Bruins a 5-3 lead.
“It shouldn’t be this way,’’ Pouliot said of the slow start. “Especially at home in the first period, we’ve got to get momentum on our side and keep it on our side. We didn’t do that. But we came out strong after that and won the game.’’