BOSTON – For the second straight game, the Bruins beat a good team without playing their best hockey. In Saturday’s tilt with the Lightning, the B’s fell behind 2-0 in the game’s first nine minutes. Their league-best penalty kill gave up two goals on its first two chances. They took 10 penalties and gave Tampa Bay eight power plays.
And yet they managed to come away with a 3-2 victory. A strong start to the second period helped them tie the game. Then a four-minute power play late in the third set the table for Brad Marchand to score his fourth game-winning goal in the last six games.
The Bruins would obviously like to win more convincingly — like they did at the end of their recent road trip when they outscored the Panthers and Islanders 8-2 in a pair of wins — but they also see some positives in being able to win despite not clicking on all cylinders.
“I think one of things is character,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I think we’re realizing that we need a lot of that, and I think we’ve showed that we have it. We’ve got to keep that going. It’s something that we’re aware of. You know it’s not always going to be your best night, but you’ve got to find ways to get the two points. I think tonight was a perfect example.”
That character showed in the Bruins’ ability to avoid getting deflated after two early goals. Although they didn’t swing the momentum right away, they at least managed to slow Tampa’s momentum for the remainder of the first. Then they regrouped during the intermission and took fewer than five minutes to tie the game in the second.
“I thought we still played a good first period,” said coach Claude Julien. “I told the guys we had 40 minutes left and it was important for us to try to stay out of the penalty box. Five-on-five we could get ourselves back in the game. As odd as it may have seemed, I don’t think there was any panic in our dressing room. There wasn’t any panic as far as we were concerned. The coaches were pretty happy with what we saw. Like I said, we just had to try and stay out of the penalty box.”
The Bruins did give Tampa four more power plays, but they also managed to swing the special teams battle in their favor. They killed all four of those penalties, and they scored two power-play goals of their own. In addition to Marchand’s winner, Boston’s first goal also came on the man advantage.
The top power-play unit of Dougie Hamilton, David Krejci, Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton generated some great puck movement and wound up scoring when Hamilton fed Seguin for a one-timer from the left circle. Incredibly, the two goals on the man advantage were the first two the Bruins have scored at home all season.
“Those two power-play goals, that’s obviously something that we’ve talked about that we need to do for the team,” Bergeron said. “It’s something important, especially down the stretch, that we need to find ways to score some goals on the special teams. … Krejci’s unit had a lot of chances. We had some pretty good looks as well. So yeah, we didn’t score on every one of them, but I thought momentum stayed our way on the power play.”
The Bruins are in the midst of the toughest stretch of their schedule. Just in the next 10 days, they face Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Pittsburgh. At some point, they’re going to need to play their best hockey if they’re going to remain the top team in the East. But the fact that they continue to get points even when they don’t play their best is a good sign. As Saturday proved, the Bruins can’t be counted out even if they fall behind.