BUFFALO — Zdeno Chara brought out a chorus of boos from the 21,000-plus at First Niagara on Friday night.
Just 29 seconds into the third period, his wrister from the left point went under a jumping Ryan Spooner, through a Matt Beleskey moving screen and right by Sabres netminder Robin Lehner to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
It came after a faceoff win by Beleskey, who notched a goal and an assist on the night. It was Chara’s first goal in 19 games.
When the go-ahead goal and eventual game-winer was announced in-arena, the boos rained down.
This time around, the Bruins didn’t let up in the third. They closed out a 4-1 win to snap a three-game losing streak and end their five-game road trip with a much-needed victory.
“We wanted to make sure that we kept the high pace,” Chara said postgame. “That we stayed aggressive on the forecheck in our neutral zone and had good breakouts, clean breakouts and for most of the third, we did that.”
BUFFALO — The Bruins are in need of a win.
And not just because of the two points would significantly help in the standings, where the Bruins are squeezed in the playoff picture, tied with two teams for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Those points are important. Those are everything in this League.
But those wearing the Spoked-B day in and day out also need a win - in the form of a strong road victory on Friday night against the Sabres - for their pride.
“We’re in a spot where we need to win games, and we know that,” Max Talbot said following the Bruins’ pregame skate at First Niagara Center, as they prepared to close out their five-game road trip.
“We’re not playing bad hockey, but I think we can play better, and at the end of the day, it’s the results that count,” said Talbot. “So we’re going to keep on working hard and hope we get the two points tonight.”
The Bruins began their road trip with a 4-1 win in New Jersey a week ago. Losses to the Senators, Rangers and Flyers have all followed. Their 2-1 overtime loss in Ottawa could have gone either way. In New York (2-1 loss) and Philadelphia (3-2 loss), the Bruins saw third period leads slip away.
NEW YORK — The Bruins came out hard under the spotlights at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
Ryan Spooner found room down the right side and sped in on Henrik Lundqvist just over a minute into the game, before being turned aside.
At the other end, Tuukka Rask had to be just as sharp.
The tight matchup continued all night long, but the Bruins ended it the way they began: just short.
Jimmy Hayes finally broke through Lundqvist midway through the second period, but a quick goal by the Rangers just 35 seconds into the third period and a late game-winner with just 1:42 to go gave the home team a 2-1 victory.
It handed the Bruins their second straight loss. They now sit at 1-1-1 on their five game road trip, having taken three of six points so far. They next face the Flyers in Philadelphia on Wednesday and the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday.
NEW YORK — The Bruins have picked up three of four points so far on their five-game road trip with Game No. 3 set for Monday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
They earned a 4-1 win over the Devils in New Jersey on Friday night before being edged by the Senators 2-1 in overtime on Saturday.
The Black & Gold are quickly moving on, though. Their matchup with the Sens could have gone either way in the 3-on-3 OT.
With the Bruins at the midpoint of their road trip, a strong outing could also catapult them into a good position heading into their final two games in Philadelphia and Buffalo.
“We know it’s a tough road trip and our guys have played fairly well,” Head Coach Claude Julien said pregame. “I thought in Ottawa the first period was kind of one of those periods where we had to get our legs under us and then once we did, it became a pretty even game and we had some chances. In overtime, if it doesn’t hit the post, it’s a win, but that’s how things go.”
NEWARK — The Bruins needed to start their five-game road trip with a win, plain and simple.
Heading into New Jersey’s Prudential Center on Friday night with two straight losses and five of their past six games having ended in defeat, the Black & Gold were tired of the results they had been getting.
Their simple road hockey would be a good start to turn their recent dip around. They own one of the League’s best road records.
A 4-1 victory over the Devils did the trick. Three Bruins picked up two-point nights with Ryan Spooner and Colin Miller each recording a goal and an assist, and Dennis Seidenberg earning two primary assists.
The win helped Boston jump New Jersey in the standings and take over the first Wild Card spot with 46 points and still two games in hand.
“We’re in a battle here with a lot of teams in our division and we’ve got some games in hand,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “These are the kind of games you have to win when you’ve got games in hand to try and get back into that upper group and at the start of a road trip — I thought we played well.”
NEWARK — The Bruins kick off a five-game road trip on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
A win would certainly give the Bruins confidence as they begin a slate of six games in nine days, including the trip.
“You want to always start a road trip on the right foot and it starts with a win here,” said Torey Krug. “It’s important to get out in front and feel good about your game because going into other teams’ buildings is tough, especially when we have a couple back-to-backs here where you want to make sure you get the first one and use it as momentum for the second one. So the first game’s always crucial.”
The Bruins will head to Ottawa right after the game to face the Senators on Saturday night.
Boston, Ottawa and New Jersey are all right on top of each other in the standings, with the Devils just one point ahead of the Bruins (45 points) in the East’s first Wild Card spot. Boston and Ottawa each have 44 points. The Bruins have three games in hand on both teams.
“The standings are so close that it’s crucial to get the points that we can while we still have some games in hand,” said Krug. “And we can start to leap-frog some teams — so the mood in the locker room right now is to make sure we come out with the right attitude and to play the right way and try to collect some points.”
With 38 games under their belt, Black & Gold are quickly approaching the second half of the season.
“We went through it last year where we had to watch the standings every single game to see what happened,” said Krug. “We don’t want to be in that position again this year.”
“But it’s looking like it’s going to be a tight race all the way to the end. So it’s an exciting time, especially for the fan to watch the quality of the hockey — I think it brings the best out of teams.”
“I think this is when you really start jockeying for position,” said Devils goaltender Cory Schneider. “Every point matters, every game matters — they all matter, but right now it gets magnified and intensified. Every game you can tell, the style of play changes a little bit when the New Year comes and everyone sort of realizes what they have to do to put themselves in a good position.”
While both teams are tight in the standings, they’re also dealing with similar adversity from injuries and a recent dip in play.
On the Bruins’ end, they are without Adam McQuaid and David Krejci, who are on Injured Reserve with upper-body injuries and did not begin the trip with the team. Among others, the Devils are without Mike Cammalleri, Tuomo Ruutu and defenseman John Moore.
“I know they’re dealing with some injuries like we are,” said Schneider. “So I know that game we had against them a couple weeks ago in Boston and they didn’t look any worse for the wear, so we’re going to have a tough game ahead of us.”
Boston picked up a 2-1 shootout win over New Jersey in the team’s first meeting of the season at TD Garden in December.
“I know they’re fighting for the same position we are and trying to make it into the playoffs,” said the Devils netminder. “We’ve always had a hard time with the Bruins. They play a certain way and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go against that.”
Boston will get a lift from being on the road — it’s been one of the top teams on the road all season, with an 11-3-2 record in opponents’ buildings.
“I think we’ve taken a good approach to our game, as far as not trying to do too much, versus at home maybe you try and put on a little bit more of a show,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “But we’ve just seemed to have been better and better prepared and have worked harder and smarter, so there’s no real other reason than that.”
Pastrnak Expected to Suit Up
David Pastrnak could be suiting up on Friday night in his first game with Boston since Oct. 31.
The forward missed 21 games with a foot injury, before being assigned on a conditioning stint to Providence on Dec. 19 and then playing in the World Junior Championship for the Czech Republic.
Julien is looking forward to seeing the 19-year-old play with confidence back in the lineup.
“To just see how much he’s come around,” said Julien, of what he’s be watching for with Pastrnak. “He’s been out for a while and we shouldn’t expect him to come here and all of a sudden turn things around for us. I think the team’s got to do it as a whole.”
“But he’s just a small part of the puzzle and he’s a young player and we’ve got to give him an opportunity here to get in our lineup at some point and go out there and just play his game. He’s a good skater, he’s a good playmaker, but at this level, you’ve got to be more than just that, so he’s had an opportunity now to play a few games with the World Juniors and the American League and hopefully he’s ready for this level.”
Gustavsson Likely to Start
Though the Bruins held an optional pregame skate on Friday morning, Jonas Gustavsson practiced in the visitors net at the Prudential Center and was the first goaltender off the ice. Tuukka Rask stayed on for extra time.
Gustavsson was between the pipes for the Bruins’ 2-1 win over New Jersey the last time the two teams met on Dec. 20. That game and the Bruins’ loss to Buffalo on Dec. 26 mark his two most recent starts.
The netminder is 6-3-1 on the season with a 2.58 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. With Gustavsson starting on Friday, Rask could get the start in Ottawa on Saturday against the Senators.
Projected Lineup vs. New Jersey 1/8
WILMINGTON — Adam McQuaid did not practice with the Bruins on Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena.
The defenseman left Tuesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals during the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
McQuaid went hard into the boards and glass after a hit from behind by Zach Sill at 4:47 into the period and stayed on the ice for a few minutes while being tended to by Bruins medical staff. He eventually was able to sit up and was helped gingerly to the bench by his teammates before heading down the tunnel. Sill was scheduled to have a hearing on Wednesday with the NHL Department of Player Safety.
“No further update on him,” Head Coach Claude Julien said of McQuaid when he addressed the media following Wednesday’s practice.
Julien did not yet know whether or not the blueliner would be traveling on the team’s upcoming five-game road trip that begins in New Jersey on Friday night.
“Don’t know,” Julien said. “That’s where we’re at right now with him.”
BOSTON — No matter how the Bruins garner a win, they need a bounce-back performance.
An all-around team win against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at TD Garden would certainly provide a boost, especially with four of their past five games ending in defeat.
“Well, I think it’s important for us to think that we need to win a hockey game here and nothing changes from before — the standings, the games in hand… you have to win,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “Especially the way that last game ended, we certainly needed a better performance from our team.”
The Black & Gold host the Capitals at 7:00 p.m. ET (NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
After three days off from game action following the Winter Classic, with two hard practice days mixed in, the Bruins should be the fresher team. They should also be catching the Caps on a brief downturn, with them having lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“I think we’ve done a good job this year of answering the bell and turning the page when we haven’t had such a great game [this season],” said Frank Vatrano. “I think we’ve done a good job at answering and coming back with a strong game.”
BOSTON — The Bruins took advantage of a second straight practice day on Monday before hosting the Washington Capitals — the Eastern Conference’s top team — on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The two productive practices were a luxury following a busy month of December. They came at the right time, given the ill-timed outcome of the Bruins’ matchup against Montreal in the Winter Classic.
“It’s good we had these two days,” said Captain Zdeno Chara. “We have to move forward, and I think like any other game in season, when you have a bad game, you just have to move forward and get ready for the next one. That’s the way we took the approach.”
“It’s going to happen again, having a bad game — obviously we picked the wrong game, probably the worst game of the season,” Chara added. “But yeah, there’s no other way [but to] just get ready for the next games we have coming up.”
FOXBOROUGH — The atmosphere was set at Gillette Stadium, with the days, weeks and months of build-up finally reaching puck drop on the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
A crowd of nearly 67,000 packed into the stadium with a sea of Black & Gold reaching up to the lights and surrounding the field.
It was the perfect backdrop for a big stage like the Winter Classic.
For the home team, however, the game was anything but perfect, with Boston dropping a 5-1 loss to Montreal in the much anticipated New Year’s Day matchup.
Warmups came and went with the Bruins taking in their surroundings — the fans packing the stands, the music blasting — and making the long walk on to the field for introductions and anthems.
But when the puck dropped, the Black & Gold didn’t appear ready.