The Boston Bruins didn’t fight back after Emil Bemstrom punched Tuukka Rask in the head just 1:12 into Tuesday’s shutout loss in Columbus. Thursday was a different story against Sidney Crosby and the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins didn’t have an ideal start either, as Crosby, in his second game back from injury, fired a slap shot past Jaroslav Halak a mere 24 seconds in. But they persevered through the rough start as they baited Pittsburgh into taking penalties while generating some good looks on the power play.
With the tide slowing turning in their favor, Karson Kuhlman, fresh off his arrival from Providence, tallied a pair of assists on Sean Kuraly and Par Lindholm’s first-period tallies — just two minutes apart — to give Boston a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 17, 2020
Pittsburgh pressed in the middle frame and narrowly evened the score. But Halak shut the door with a flurry of timely stops — during a Bruins power play — en route to his 29-save outing.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand added insurance goals in the third to seal Boston’s 4-1 victory.
“Tonight we obviously got scored on early, that can deflate a team,” Bruce Cassidy said postgame. “We stuck with it.
“I thought we checked really well against a good offensive team, managed the puck well, got over people. In that part of the game, I thought we were hard to play against in terms of solid defending. I thought we stuck together physically, tried to play the body when we were supposed to and stuck up for one another if anything happened. Dropped the mitts once, because sometimes that’s going to happen. So, good response.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins cooled off Crosby and the Penguins at TD Garden.
The Bruins toughened up.
This Boston Bruins team no longer resembles the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ from the 1970s or even the early 2010s. In fact, it’s far from it.
One of the biggest criticisms of the team season — other than their overtime record — is their unwillingness to stand up for each other when necessary. Case in point Tuesday night when Rask entered concussion protocol following Bemstrom’s cheap shot. The Bruins essentially let Bemstrom off the hook with their lack of a response aside from a couple of minor exchanges with Brandon Carlo and Joakim Nordstrom during the second period.
The Bruins made it clear that they weren’t going to let that happen again 48 hours later. In the opening minutes, Charlie McAvoy and Chris Wagner were on the receiving end of some questionable hits. This time their teammates came to support them
Boston used its strength in numbers rather than just a single enforcer to lay down the law. They had a couple of ring leaders in Wagner and Krug. Wagner, a notorious bandit, was in almost every scrum, while Krug dropped the gloves with Patric Hornqvist in the second period. Krug took down Hornqvist, giving the Bruins a timely boost of energy.
Chris Wagner drops Brandon Tanev and a scrum breaks out pic.twitter.com/hsHtJT8SqB
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) January 17, 2020
They may not have enforcers like Shawn Thornton to muck things up, but the new-age Bruins can back one another up when they have to.
Torey Krug vs. Patric Hornqvist. pic.twitter.com/anVxWe69Rl
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 17, 2020
Kuhlman’s triumphant return.
The 24-year-old made his first appearance for the Black and Gold since sustaining a lower-body injury on Oct. 19 against Toronto. He provided some much-needed blood to the Bruins’ bottom-six.
Kuhlman, slotting on the third line with Lindholm and Danton Heinen, didn’t waste any time making his imprint. The former Minnesota-Duluth product gave the Bruins a spark with his pair of assists in the first 12 minutes of play.
“It was just great to be back, to be honest with you,” Kuhlman said with a smile afterward. “Lot of adrenaline and my legs were there and my conditioning was there so I was happy with where we were at.”
Kuhlman started his evening with an assist on Kuraly’s tally. He followed that up with a beautiful feed to set up Linholm’s go-ahead goal.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) January 17, 2020
This play exemplifies the type of player Kuhlman is. He’s a gamer and he makes things happen. What he lacks in top-end talent he makes up for with cunning and an unrelenting work rate.
Kuhlman is exactly what the Bruins need on the third line at this juncture after the failed Brett Ritchie experiment.
Rask’s pregame ceremony
The Bruins placed Rask on injured reserve on Thursday, but that didn’t stop them from honoring their all-time winningest netminder for another milestone before puck drop.
Aside from the fact that Rask’s 500th game happened earlier this season, he received a wide and hysterical array of gifts. Boston’s captains presented the Finn with a silver goalie stick, a glass plaque, a bottle of wine, and a metallic drum set.
THEY GAVE TUUKKA RASK DRUMS pic.twitter.com/5dt5tC5FyP
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 17, 2020
The Bruins capped off the well-deserved celebration with a tribute video featuring several of Rask’s old teammates, including recent U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Tim Thomas.
— Matt Castle (@Matt_Castle22) January 17, 2020
Here’s to No. 500.