What a difference a week makes.
The Bruins traveled back to Boston seven days ago, following their 4-3 setback in Winnipeg, carrying their first three-game losing streak since early December. Now, they’ve won three straight, closer to clinching their third straight postseason appearance following a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins picked up right where they left off from their 5-0 thumping of the New York Islanders.
Boston’s top line picked up right where they left off
Bruce Cassidy didn’t have any reservations reuniting David Pastrnak with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
Even with the rust following his long layoff, Pastrnak’s mere presence on Tuesday provided a trickle-down effect. He didn’t register a single point, but the crafty Czech playmaker created a handful of scoring chances and had pep in his step in his return from a broken thumb.
He got back on the score sheet Thursday night along with his fellow linemates, proving once again that they’re one of the best trios in the National Hockey League.
Boston’s top line accounted for eight (three goals, five assists) of the team’s 13 points and a plus-9 rating. Their dominance on both ends of the ice, again, trickled down to the rest of the lineup.
“I thought we had … I guess a lot of good read and react plays in the ‘O’ zone, and I think we could’ve had a few more [goals],” Bergeron told reporters. “Defensively I thought we played well. We played tight [and] stingy. The chemistry was definitely back, and the communication is always key. So I thought we did that a lot of that tonight and we’ve got to carry that forward.”
Unlike Tuesday, the Bruins started slow against the lowly Devils. They found their rhythm — and momentum — following Bergeron’s late first period tally on a beautiful no-look pass from Pastrnak.
The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is back.
Pastrnak with a nice cross-slot feed to Bergeron, who buries his 29th goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/sjiP0G8C6f
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 21, 2019
Each member of the top line had their own milestones Thursday night. Bergeron secured the victory with an empty netter to cap off his fifth career 30-goal campaign. Marchand’s three assists put him at 90 points for the first time of his career. And Pastrnak, rust and all, scored for the first time since Feb. 6.
There’s no reason to put Pastrnak anywhere else in the lineup. And again, this matchup doesn’t bode well for a Maple Leafs squad with the same defensive issues from last year’s first-round series.
Bruins D layers up
Jake DeBrusk’s second period turnover, leading to Drew Stafford’s first goal in 35 games, marked the Bruins’ only blemish of the evening. The last two games, for that matter.
Zacha ➡ Stafford ➡ 🚨 pic.twitter.com/5xvyv9ASBV
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) March 22, 2019
Cassidy had another night of luxury handling minutes for his defensive core. All six of Boston’s blue-liners logged at least 15 minutes of ice time Thursday, with Brandon Carlo leading the way at 22:19. Zdeno Chara clocked in at under 20 minutes (19:56), giving the 6-foot-9 captain a relatively lighter workload.
Tuukka Rask made some quality saves, including a breakaway stop on Blake Coleman, but the defense never gave the Devils much room to maneuver aside from their rare odd-man rushes early on.
The Bruins returned home from their last three-game road trip holding the Blue Jackets to one goal on 25 shots. They held the Devils and Islanders to one combined goal on 35.
They’re taking care of the puck and staying structured defensively. Not bad without regulars in Torey Krug (concussion), Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk (both with upper body ailments).
Kuraly exits after blocking a shot
Sean Kuraly took his first shift of the third period alongside his new linemates Danton Heinen and Chris Wagner. It marked one of his last shifts of the evening, but he made the most of it before heading down the tunnel.
Kuraly’s blocked shot in the hand area at the Devils attacking end ultimately sprung Heinen and Wagner for a 2-on-1 attempt. Heinen snapped his 10th goal of the season past Marblehead’s Cory Schneider for a two-goal cushion.
Sean Kuraly blocks Santini's slapper and Heinen goes the other way and buries a goal.
Most painful assist of Kuraly's career — who's in rough shape. pic.twitter.com/GT4jOy8e45
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 22, 2019
Kuraly got an assist for his effort on Heinen’s tally. He tried to give it a go again a few minutes later when he returned to the bench, but the former Sharks prospect made his way down the tunnel again after his last shift of the evening — with Noel Acciari — during a Boston penalty kill.
All four lines contributed to the B’s 10-goal outburst the last two games. Kuraly has two of those 10 goals, both coming Tuesday night in Long Island, and his energy and engagement in all three zones makes him a staple on Boston’s bottom six.
The Bruins will miss those traits if Kuraly misses any extended time.