CHICAGO — At long last, Charlie McAvoy has found his way back in the goal column.
The former Boston University standout earned his first goal since Game 1 of last season’s Stanley Cup Final against the Blues on May 27 — and first regular-season tally since March 27, 2019 — in triumphant fashion.
With Wednesday’s tilt with the Blackhawks tied at 1-1 in overtime, McAvoy tapped in Jake DeBrusk’s feed past Robin Lehner for the game-winner at 1:19 of the extra session to send the Bruins to their fifth straight win.
GAME. WINNER. ?
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) February 6, 2020
“It was a heck of a play by J.D. [Jake DeBrusk],” McAvoy said regarding his first goal in 55 regular-season tilts. “It was just simple for me. I was just trying to go to the back post, and what a pass [he made]. He put it right on my stick and the rest is history.”
Here’s what (else) we learned following Boston’s 2-1 win over Chicago at United Center.
Teammates were thrilled for McAvoy.
The respect and friendship players have with one another resonates throughout the Bruins’ locker room. They’re happy whenever someone scores a goal and they pick up each other during difficult stints.
McAvoy found himself at the bottom of a pig pile as his teammates came over to celebrate his game-winner. They made sure to give him an appropriate send-off for his drought-breaking night.
“They wouldn’t let me up. After about 30 seconds, I said, ‘I guess we’re staying in Chicago tonight,'” McAvoy said with a chuckle. “But that was awesome. We’re such a close group. I could feel everyone’s genuine happiness for me and we all share that with each other when anybody does good things.”
The goal drought didn’t stop McAvoy from contributing in other areas. He’s still producing on the stat sheet with 19 assists — including a pair of helpers against the Canucks 24 hours prior — trailing only Torey Krug among Bruins’ blue-liners.
McAvoy’s smooth skating and stout positioning in the defensive end bodes well in his nightly assignments against the opposition’s top line. On this night, he faced the potent Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews combo — albeit on separate lines — more often than not.
His peers appreciate McAvoy’s work ethic. As much as the drought weighed on him, the Bruins knew he’d eventually find his way back to the goal column.
“He does a lot for us,” Krug said about his fellow blue-liner. “Just from talking to him, he was getting a little anxious about [the drought]. That’s natural and to be expected. But he hasn’t let it affect what he rest of the way, as far as being a great defenseman for this team and shutting down other team’s top lines and moving the puck and doing everything else well.”
“He’s still playing very well for us,” head coach Bruce Cassidy added. “He’s had a little tough luck. Sometimes he’s over-passed as well, but tonight he had no choice on that one [the game-winner]. He had to shoot it, so good for him, and I hope he gets a few more.”
Yet, McAvoy and the Bruins still needed a break late in regulation.
The Bruins got another break late in regulation.
The Bruins peppered Lehner all night long with a robust 40 shots on net. Yet their power play didn’t gain nearly as much traction on the Chicago netminder firing a mere five shots in three attempts with the man advantage.
The power play nearly became powerless in regulation on the heels of Krug’s tripping penalty. Drake Cagguila appeared to give the Blackhawks the lead with a little over a minute left. But the officials blew the play dead after Olli Maatta delivered an apparent hand pass in the neutral zone.
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) February 6, 2020
Neither Cassidy nor Krug received an explanation on the no-goal call. Toews did. The Blackhawks captain told the media that the officials admittingly “made a mistake” in the game-changing moment.
We’ve seen the officials rob the Bruins on a handful of moments this season, notably with offside reviews. They’ve received the benefit of the doubt over a 48-hour span, including Charlie Coyle’s goal against Vancouver following an offside review on Tuesday.
The Bruins will take any break they can get. Yet the dubious officiating and rulebook in the National Hockey League continues to do more harm than good to the on-ice product.
Sean Kuraly leads secondary scoring uptick.
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) February 6, 2020
The Bruins’ potent top-line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak rarely succumbs to a quiet night. Even without lighting the lamp, they continue to dazzle the league with their natural playmaking abilities and stout prowess in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones.
Boston’s No. 1 trio didn’t record a single point in Chicago. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, either. But their teammates had their backs.
McAvoy capped off the secondary scoring output with his thrilling game-winner. Sean Kuraly set the tone in an important moment during the second period.
Trailing 1-0 despite their distinct shot advantage, the Bruins kept pushing back on the Blackhawks as they tried to build off of Alex DeBrincrat’s power-play tally. Kuraly, a healthy scratch in Minnesota last Saturday, came through tallying his second point in as many nights with a wrap-around goal to even things up and tilt the ice back in Boston’s favor.
“It’s kind of a reintroduction of how I want to play; being strong and holding onto pucks,” Kuraly said. “I think it was good to [score] that and push the game back in our direction.”
The production outside of the top line provided the Bruins with a good blueprint following the bye week. The Bruins’ secondary scorers have notched 12 of the team’s 17 goals since returning to play last weekend.
Don Sweeney hopes to have another upgrade or two for the middle of his lineup come the Feb. 24 trade deadline. But the Bruins are making the most of what they have to work within the secondary scoring department, and in turn, they’ve provided some timely moments as of late.
“We’re not a one-line team,” Cassidy assessed. “We have one line that does lead us a lot of nights, but we have other guys that chip in when asked and they’re doing it.”