The Boston Bruins got near-perfect special teams play in desert, scoring three power play goals (including two by Patrice Bergeron) on six tries, plus a short-handed marker by Brad Marchand to defeat the Arizona Coyotes by a 5-3 score, raising the record to 2-3 after five games. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves to post his first ‘W’ of the season for Boston.
A sleepy first 40 minutes saw a barrage of goals in the final period (B’s got four, Coyotes two), as the B’s took their second victory of the season after going 0-3 at home.
Arizona got goals 2:24 apart by Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura to even the game at 3 goals apiece with plenty of time on the clock. However, Bergeron broke the deadlock with a power play goal about mid-way through the third, redirecting a Ryan Spooner shot/pass into the net behind Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith for the tally that stood up as the winner.
As was the case in Denver Wednesday night, the B’s came out with energy and enjoyed an advantage in territorial play early. However, unlike the Avalanche, they were unable to solve Smith.
Arizona opened the scoring on a goal by veteran Shane Doan, whose initial shot was stopped by Rask, but defenseman Kevan Miller’s skate made contact with the puck and it slid into the net for Doan’s 900th career point. Coach Claude Julien issued a second unsuccessful coach’s challenge in as many tries, making the case that Arizona forward Joe Vitale had entered the crease and made contact with the Boston netminder. Unfortunately for Julien, even though Vitale entered the crease on his own and did bump Rask, the referee elected not to overrule himself and the call stood, maintaining that the contact was not related to the play that resulted in the puck crossing the goal line.
The B’s tied the game in the second period when fourth-line winger Tyler Randell scored his second goal in as many games, rifling a nifty backhander over Smith and into the net.
The B’s extended their lead while on the power play later in the period when David Krejci took a Torey Krug (2 assists, 22:55 TOI, 5 shots, 5 blocked shots) cross-ice pass and buried it with a rocket one-timer for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.
In the third period, the B’s made it 3-1 when Marchand got behind the Arizona defense, took a Tommy Cross bank clear/pass off the glass, and went in alone on Smith, beating him with a quick backhander. That gave Marchand his first goal of the season and Cross his first career NHL point. He was victimized on the Doan goal after an errant pass gave Arizona possession, but he ended up handling the rest of the game in solid fashion. As long as the Bruins keep winning, Julien and company will likely keep rolling Cross out there.
Although the Coyotes struck back and gave Boston fans an element of “here we go again” nerves, Bergeron’s first goal of the night restored the lead and then he struck again after Adam McQuaid drew an interference call late, firing a wrist shot that Smith whiffed on to close out the scoring.
With Boston’s power play at the top of the league and Krejci leading the way in scoring while admittedly very early on, this Bruins team has strung together a pair of hard-working victories, scoring 11 goals after netting just seven in their first three.
Patrice Bergeron- With a pair of power play goals and his usual solid play, Bergeron led by example tonight, firing 8 shots on net and being rewarded by the coaches with more than 22 minutes of ice time.
Brad Marchand- The pesky little waterbug showed why he is so valuable to the club, netting his first goal of the year while the B’s were killing a penalty and generating multiple other scoring chances. He creates opportunities with his speed, but he’s a smart player, too. While on the power play, he took a Zdeno Chara shot off the leg, but had the presence of mind to get his stick on the puck and work it back out to the point so the B’s could reset. That’s going to get a thumbs up from the coaches when they break down film on this one. The team is so glad to have him back after his concussion and he looked to be suffering nothing in the way of after effects tonight.
Tuukka Rask- The save percentage (.870) is nothing to write home about, but the two points are huge for him. The Bruins don’t win this game without their main man in net. His tremendous save on Rieder after Anthony DuClair set him up for a glittering chance late in the second period was a highlight reel stop and reinforces the old adage of- it isn’t how many goals you give up, but when you give them up that matters more. Although Rieder would get Rask later on a rebound of his own shot after the B’s were just standing around while killing a penalty, Boston got enough offense tonight that their goaltender’s saves pulled them through.
David Krejci- One of the great things about David is how serious he is. People who haven’t been around him don’t appreciate his off-the-charts competitive drive and how tough he is on himself when he doesn’t perform. He was immensely disappointed not only in the fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, but that he had a pretty poor season by his standards even though he was less than 100 percent most of the time. He heard and read the criticisms of his contract extension, so he’s doing the only thing he knows how- playing his best to silence the doubters by producing like a $7M a year player. His scoring clip is probably not sustainable for him given his overall body of work, but if there was one player on this team who needed a quick start, it was him. It’s just Krejci being Krejci really, but he’s playing with a ton of confidence, so don’t be surprised if he sets career bests in all categories this year.
Tyler Randell- He once scored four goals in a single playoff game while in the OHL, so Randell has always had the hands…he showed them off again tonight lasering a backhand shot past Smith before the Coyotes goalie could react. And we haven’t even had a chance to see Randell do what he’s on the team for yet…his toughness. Boston may have found a fixture for the bottom line. It’s early yet, but if you think Boston fans like him now, wait until he drops the gloves a few times.
Special Teams- 3/6 with the man advantage, 1 shorthanded goal. The Rieder goal that came on the same power play just 13 seconds later was the only blemish on the night. Spooner and Krug are particularly impressive on the power play with the way they move the puck around. The hands, the vision, the ability to take advantage of the added time and space- this is precisely what every good team with the extra man tries to do. It’s nice to see a couple of young players- former housemates in Providence- demonstrating the kind of chemistry and skill they’ve shown together.
It was a well-played game across the board for Boston. They still have problems with coverage in front of their net, especially when teams overload and the B’s have trouble sorting out who is responsible for what.
However, on this night- not singling anyone out. Sure- there were some mistakes, and some guys looked slower and hobbled at times, but the team pulled together for another gritty win and with the special teams looking as strong as they have early on, you can see that even if the 2015-16 Bruins might lack the talent to keep up consistently with the NHL’s powers, there is some character in this plucky bunch.
They head back to Boston on a high note with some time to refresh before taking on Philadelphia at home on Wednesday. Time to give the hometown fans something to cheer about, boys.