Another win is lined up by Bruins
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - For the Bruins, the luxury of securing a playoff spot - which happened Friday night, courtesy of a 5-3 Pittsburgh win over Buffalo - is that the coaching staff can fiddle with the lineup at the end of the regular season.
It is no surprise that on Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum, the only line that didn’t see any changes was that of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tyler Seguin.
The line connected for three third-period goals - one each - to power the Bruins to a 6-3 win over the Islanders.
“It was nice,’’ Bergeron said of the chemistry with Marchand and Seguin. “We created a lot of chances. The first few, we didn’t score. But in the third, we found a way. It was nice to see the puck going in and creating some confidence for the line.’’
The Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line has been together for most of the season, first assembled Oct. 29 in Montreal.
But with the return of Rich Peverley last Sunday, coach Claude Julien had been trying different looks. Julien bumped up Seguin to the first line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, while Peverley rode on the right side with Marchand and Bergeron.
On Saturday, Julien decided to go with Marchand, Bergeron, and Seguin for the full 60 minutes.
“It was good before,’’ Julien said. “There’s times where you feel a switch is not a bad thing for certain reasons - who you’re playing against and what you’re matched up against. Sometimes you make those switches. Today, I decided to start with them and see where that went. You saw some changes on other lines to give ourselves some other looks.’’
It is a line, when clicking, that can blow away opponents because of its outside speed and the bedrock play of Bergeron in the middle. Late in the first period, after taking a feed from Marchand, Seguin whiffed on a point-blank chance. In the second, after a crisp pass from Seguin, Bergeron cranked a short-range shot. Only a sparkling kickout by Al Montoya (21 saves) kept the puck out of the net.
But with the game tied at 2-2 after two periods, the No. 2 line blew the Islanders’ doors off in the third. Marchand kicked off the outburst at 3:13. Seguin carried the puck down the right wing and spotted Marchand in front. Marchand shook off Dylan Reese and slipped the puck past Montoya to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.
Seguin doubled Boston’s advantage at 10:37. After taking a pass from Bergeron inside the blue line, Seguin stopped at the left circle and snapped a long-distance shot past Montoya to give the Bruins a 4-2 edge.
The Islanders’ P.A. Parenteau responded with his second goal of the game when he beat Marty Turco (19 saves) at 14:53. But Bergeron answered with the back-breaking strike at 16:19.
Seguin started the play with a solo breakout and a tape-to-tape clearing pass to Marchand. Seguin then hurtled through the neutral zone and caught up with his linemates. Montoya got a piece of Seguin’s shot, but Bergeron scored on the rebound to make it 5-3.
“I’m definitely familiar with those guys,’’ Seguin (1-2-3 in 15:46 of ice time) said of Marchand and Bergeron. “Krech and Looch are a little more new to me. I was happy playing with those guys as well. If it comes that lines are changing during games in the future, I’m still going to be comfortable with either line.’’
Krejci, who had scored at 18:11 of the first, netted his second goal at 16:43 of the third to cap the four-goal third-period firestorm.
“Instead of sitting on that one-goal lead, we went back after them again,’’ Julien said. “We found a way to score a few more. That was good. I liked the way our guys responded.’’
With four games remaining, the Bruins are 2 points away from clinching the Northeast Division title and a top-three seed. As their reward, they can experiment with line combinations and defensive pairings.
In Saturday’s third period, Peverley, who had started the game on the first line, went to the third unit with Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly. Jordan Caron, a fourth-liner when the puck dropped, moved up to replace Peverley alongside Lucic and Krejci. Brian Rolston dropped to the fourth line to fill Caron’s spot.
Those lines will most likely be jumbled several times before the playoffs start. If Julien wants jam and a physical presence on the first line, Caron will be his man once the first round kicks off. Peverley gives the first line speed, but he’s also had success with Pouliot and Kelly. Daniel Paille, a healthy scratch Saturday for the fourth straight game, will be back in the lineup at some time.
The Bruins’ short-term goal is to win the division. But they also want to rest their horses. They’d like to try some different things to optimize the postseason lineup. And they want to enter the playoffs with momentum.
“We have to do two things: stay sharp and be the best we can be from here on in, and also get some rest and be fresh when the playoffs start,’’ Julien said.