The Boston Bruins looked like a team playing their second game in as many nights.
The young Anaheim Ducks also encountered some fatigue and broken plays usually associated with the latter half of a back-to-back.
Both teams looked for inspiration to get them out of a rut entering the third period of a 0-0 game. The Ducks turned to one of their young guns to deliver the opening tally as Mason McTavish outworked Hampus Lindholm on a Linus Ullmark rebound at 5:05 of the final stanza.
Coming off firing a mere three shots in the middle 20, the Bruins appeared primed for their first loss of the season. But then Matthew Poitras broke through on the scoresheet, scoring his first NHL goal to even things up at 1-1 just 1:14 after McTavish’s tally.
It didn’t take long for Poitras to net his second. The 19-year-old centerman put the Bruins ahead for good at 10:20 of the third, burying a rebound past John Gibson — from Jake DeBrusk’s initial shot — for the go-ahead marker.
“We didn’t let the first goal phase us, and we just kept plugging and kept grinding,” Poitras said to NESN’s Adam Pellerin postgame.
The Bruins sealed the 3-1 victory on Brad Marchand’s empty-net tally. Here’s what we learned after the B’s earned their second 5-0 start in their 100-year history.
Poitras already showcasing maturity in early NHL career
Poitras hit the first roadblock of his pro career in San Jose. He started the night in a top-six role with Marchand and Morgan Geekie but saw limited minutes in the second and third following Jim Montgomery’s in-game lineup changes.
Even without notching a point, the 2020 second-round selection looked more assertive during Saturday’s outing in Los Angeles, creating time and space to set up quality scoring looks and showcasing attention to detail in all three zones.
One night later — and three days after his first setback — Poitras provided a pair of playmaking moments at a pivotal juncture. His two-goal outing wasn’t only a turning point in an early NHL regular-season tilt. It also showed his maturity and growth in just his second week with the Bruins.
“I think for me it’s just about building confidence,” Poitras told Pellerin. “I’m a type of player who likes to hold onto pucks and make plays. I think part of my game is being able to protect the puck well, and when a team is playing man-on-man, I like to do some cutbacks and try to make some plays. So yeah, I’m just [focused on] building confidence every game.
Poitras has four games remaining in his “second audition.” Don Sweeney could still return Poitras to his junior hockey club for another season following his ninth career game.
The Bruins will play their ninth game of the season against Toronto at TD Garden on Nov. 2. The odds right now favor Poitras staying in Boston for the remainder of his rookie season.
Jake DeBrusk displays his professionalism following his healthy scratch.
From his early career struggles with consistency to his public trade request, Jake DeBrusk encountered his share of scrutiny for a good chunk of his Boston tenure. DeBrusk, currently in the final year of his contract, provided another headline under less-than-ideal circumstances on Saturday when Montgomery benched the Edmonton native following a late arrival to a team meeting.
Montgomery commended DeBrusk for how he handled the news before Sunday’s tilt. The second-year Boston coach reinserted DeBrusk into the lineup.
Feeling as if he had let his teammates down, DeBrusk couldn’t wait to put the events behind him.
“We have a high standard on this team,” DeBrusk told the media. “We have a higher standard than people give us credit for. I broke a team rule, and I understand that there are consequences with that and I own up to it completely. I let the guys down, and I wanted to join them in L.A., and having to watch really sucked. I felt it, and I just really wanted to help the team out today in any way.”
DeBrusk, indeed, helped out. He nearly delivered an emphatic response in the opening moments after hitting the crossbar on a shorthanded breakaway attempt.
Ever the professional, DeBrusk carried on, firing five shot attempts — with two landing on net — in 17:19 of ice time. His second shot on goal ultimately set Poitras up for his winning rebound tally.
While Saturday marked a blip, Sunday showcased DeBrusk’s importance — and loyalty — to the Bruins.
“Obviously things happen fast, and it is what it is,” DeBrusk said. “But at the same time, I’m just focused on tonight. I am proud to be a Bruin, and I’m proud of the standards we have here. Again it is what it is, and I don’t have a rebuttal on it.”
Ian Mitchell battles through struggles to set up the equalizer.
Mitchell made his season debut in Los Angeles on Saturday night, filling in for Kevin Shattenkirk. Derek Forbort’s injury (day-to-day, lower-body) prompted another appearance for Mitchell, with Shattenkirk serving as his defensive partner.
The veteran Shattenkirk, who spent the previous three seasons in Anaheim, had a couple of decent chances in his first game against his former squad. But Mitchell encountered penalty trouble, serving time for delay of game and tripping during the second period.
His ice time shrunk as the game progressed. But Mitchell battled and earned his first assist as a Bruin with his secondary helper on Poitras’s first tally.
With the Bruins in transition following Poitras’s faceoff win, Mitchell carried the puck into center ice before springing Geekie into the attacking end with a crisp outlet saucer pass. Fresh off notching his first goal as a Bruin the night prior, Geekie delivered a slick backhanded feed to Poitras for the tying marker.
“It was a great play all around,” Montgomery said to the press. “J.D. [DeBrusk] made a great play on the wall to Mitchie; Mitchell sauced it over to Geekie, and what a pass by Geekie over to Poitras who buried it.”
Through two games, Mitchell isn’t playing his way into a regular long-term role. For now, he’ll continue to settle into his seventh defenseman assignment and try to make the most of whatever playing time he receives from Boston’s coaching staff.