ST. PAUL — The Bruins may not have had Patrice Bergeron in the lineup on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota, but they still got the job done with a 4-2 win over the Wild.
It gave them two straight wins to start their six game road trip, following up Thursday’s 6-2 victory in Winnipeg.
The still-hot Brad Marchand notched his 12th goal in 12 games with a shorthanded tally, David Krejci finished off a give-and-go with David Pastrnak just 35 seconds after the Wild tied the game, and Loui Eriksson put home his 200th career goal off a breakaway for the game-winner.
With Bergeron deemed day-to-day and missing his first game of the season, Ryan Spooner filled in alongside Marchand and Brett Connolly for most of the game. Joonas Kemppainen slotted back into Boston’s lineup at center after being recalled from the Providence Bruins on Friday.
“You know, with Bergy, how can players not buckle down here and play hard in his absence?” said Head Coach Claude Julien, who earned his 500th win behind an NHL bench. “Because we know what he gives us every night and there’s no doubt he’s feeling bad about not being to help us out right now.”
ST. PAUL — Patrice Bergeron was the only player absent from practice on Friday when the Bruins hit the ice at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, on the second stop of their six-game road trip.
Head Coach Claude Julien said that Bergeron’s absence was considered maintenance.
“Yeah, and right now, I can’t guarantee [Saturday],” said Julien. “We’ll see [Saturday] how he is, so I’d leave him as questionable right now.”
The Bruins face the Minnesota Wild in a Saturday afternoon matinee at 2:00 p.m. ET (1:00 p.m. local time).
Bergeron played only four shifts in the third period, logging 3:15 in ice time.
“I’m not quite sure all the details, but you know, the trainer told me — that’s why I kind of minimized his ice there in the third period,” said Julien. “So I was trying to manage and save him there and so we really cut down his ice time.”
WINNIPEG — The always electric MTS Centre took a brief sigh just 1:38 into the first period on Thursday night, when Patrice Bergeron struck first for the opposition.
That wouldn’t last long, with fast paced, back-and-forth action in the game’s first 30 minutes that resulted in 30 shots on goal for Winnipeg. But by the time the third period came around, the building had returned to its collective sigh.
On the ice, the Jets were still going for it, pulling their goalie with five minutes left in the third. Jimmy Hayes potted the empty-netter to make it 6-2 and give the Bruins their first win on a season-long six-game trip.
“It was a huge start, that’s what we wanted,” said Bergeron, who notched two goals on the night and whose line combined for nine points. “But we know there’s a lot more to this road trip than just one game and now we need to focus on Minnesota.”
On the first shift of the game, Brett Connolly stayed strong cycling with the puck. The red-hot Brad Marchand fed off of that, pulled out a shake-and-bake around the Jets’ defense and set up Bergeron on the doorstep for the center’s 20th goal of the season.
WINNIPEG — The Bruins open their six-game road trip on Thursday night in Winnipeg at the MTS Centre.
Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local, NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
They should be able to draw on their road confidence this season, with the NHL’s second-best record away from home at 16-5-3, but this is the point in the season where the road only gets more difficult.
“Well, it doesn’t get any easier,” Head Coach Claude Julien said following his team’s pregame skate in Winnipeg. “As the season moves on, those road games get tougher and tougher. We’ve got a big test starting tonight. I think it’s just a matter of respecting every team in this League.”
WILMINGTON — When Wednesday morning came around for the Bruins, they were right back to business at Ristuccia Arena.
“Honestly, if you sit here and dwell on it, it doesn’t do you any good,” Torey Krug stated following a crisp, quick paced 45-minute practice before the team hit the road for a season-high six- game trip.
“Maybe sometimes it’s more difficult, but you move on and you just make sure that you’re ready for the next one.”
That next one comes in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
Their previous one — a 9-2 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at TD Garden — is hopefully soon to be forgotten.
“What’s ahead of us is more important than what is behind us,” preached Head Coach Claude Julien.
BUFFALO — The Bruins needed a shootout to edge the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter.
The 3-2 win gave them two prime points.
“It was a very tight game, right from the bat,” said Tuukka Rask, who made 26 saves on 28 shots in the victory. “I think it was a good up and down game. Both teams had some offensive zone time with some chances and you really had to fight for every inch on the ice there.”
“I mean, you can’t be looking at the standings anymore because every team’s good and Buffalo’s a good team and they showed it today, so thankfully we got the win.”
Buffalo was coming off a 4-1 come-from-behind win in Montreal the night before.
They grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the second, when Sam Reinhart scored just 47 seconds into the period, following up Evander Kane’s first period tally.
“Nobody panicked and everybody continued to compete,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “The passes and execution just got better and our game got better as well — so I liked our game.”
BUFFALO — Jonas Gustavsson traveled with the Bruins to Buffalo, and has been cleared to play.
The announcement from the Bruins came on Thursday morning.
"The final testing is complete and all results have been reviewed by the Bruins Medical Staff,” the team’s press release said. “Jonas has been cleared to resume full on-ice participation with the team without any restrictions."
“He’s fully cleared and so it’s good to have him back,” Head Coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s pregame skate, which Gustavsson participated in.
The netminder had been back skating since Monday. He left the Bruins’ game against Anaheim on Jan. 26 after the first period for precautionary reasons, due to an elevated heart rate.
BOSTON — The Bruins struck twice in 26 seconds within the first 1:21 of the third period to take a 3-1 lead over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
The game seemed in hand, once again, on home ice.
But a quick pair of Toronto goals midway through the third made it a 3-3 game. The Leafs would take the game, 4-3, in overtime.
It marked the Bruins’ second straight loss, though the most recent defeat came a week ago on Jan. 26 before the NHL’s All-Star Break.
They had won five of seven games prior to that loss to Anaheim.
“Good teams, they put lots of games together, and it seems like we play two games good and then for a few games we let it slip away,” a frustrated David Krejci said postgame. “Obviously we have a long way to be a great team, so we have to learn from those mistakes.”
NASHVILLE — When Patrice Bergeron’s Atlantic Division team was facing off against the Metropolitan Division in the NHL All-Star Game’s semifinal on Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena, his opponents had one request.
“A few guys on the other team, they were telling me I wasn’t allowed to backcheck,” Bergeron laughed. “That it was an unwritten rule in the All-Star Game.”
“But I didn’t know about that,” he smirked.
Team Atlantic earned a 4-3 win in the semifinal to advance to the final against Team Pacific, who had topped Team Central to earn the West’s bid.
The low-scoring game saw Bergeron’s squad fall 1-0 to Team Pacific in the 20-minute game. The lone goal — from Corey Perry — was scored with just 6:22 left.
Emphasis on defense is obviously not new to the Bruin.
NASHVILLE — NHL All-Star Weekend always provides a laid back, relaxing atmosphere for all involved.
A chance to take a few days, take a step back from the grind of the regular season and enjoy what makes this game great: the players, and the fans.
The players’ hard work on the ice is showcased all season long, but it’s weekends like this that let them showcase their personalities, too.
Patrice Bergeron can be included in that group — even if it’s in a subtle way.
On Saturday, Bergeron took part in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition for the East. His squad took a 29-12 decision at the end of the night after showing off their skills.
Bergeron participated in Accuracy Shooting, in the Skills Challenge Relay as a one-time passer, and in the quick-fire NHL Shootout that capped off the night in front of some 17,000 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
Afterwards, the Bruins’ alternate captain stood in front of a white wall in the back of his crowded locker room with reporters sardined in.
’So, this win — or the Stanley Cup?’ he was jokingly asked by a reporter.
He smiled, of course.
“Ah, it’s tough to choose, but I’ll go with the Cup.”
Bergeron’s first order of duty for the night was the Accuracy Shooting challenge, which he participated in at the All-Star Game in 2015 in Columbus. He always tries to channel Ray Bourque and his famous 4-for-4 bid.
The challenge didn’t necessarily go as he had planned this time around, when the puck fumbled on him a bit.
“It didn’t go according to plan, let’s just put it that way,” he smiled.
“Tough one. Tough one on that,” he added. “It was all me on that, but I’ve got to — I’d like to do it again, you know. It’s one of those things, that when you miss a few early… last year was the opposite, I got a few early and felt good about it, so this year it was kind of the opposite and I can’t blame it on the passers either — it was Jags and Nicklas Backstrom, so it was all me.”
No. 37 redeemed himself, though, when he potted two beauties in the rapid-fire shootout for the East — slipping one past John Gibson after a deke, and putting another under the bar.
“The approach was trying to redeem myself from the accuracy shooting,” he laughed. “It was nice to get those two goals and hopefully I can bring that to Boston for the shootouts if we need it.”
He also set up one-timers during the Skills Relay, softly sending feeds to Steven Stamkos, Erik Karlsson and Aaron Ekblad.
“I was happy for that. I thought the guys were happy with my passes and I was trying to go really slow for them to have their time to take a good shot,” he said with a grin.
Bergeron’s favorite part of the night turned out to be first event of the night — the Breakaway Challenge.
“I thought obviously, the Breakaway Challenge was kind of the event that stood out to me,” said Bergeron. “ I thought the guys did a great job of doing some great things, but also making it funny for everyone and entertaining, so it was great.”
San Jose’s Brent Burns — a character with his long, hairy beard, no doubt — dressed up as Chewbacca after showing a montage of his “evolution” through the years and flew in on a breakaway.
P.K. Subban came out dressed like Jaromir Jagr with a No. 68 Florida jersey and a classic wig to try and emulate Jagr’s flowing locks.
“I mean, obviously Chewbacca was amazing, with the intro on the big screen and with the mask and then obviously P.K., that was a great idea and that was pretty funny, he was playing the role pretty good.”
All in all, Bergeron enjoyed himself — and it showed.
The night began with players introductions, with the announcer shouting out: “From the Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron!”
“It’s special. It’s always nice,” Bergeron said of the fan reaction and the atmosphere. “The fans have been great all along here, so it was fun to take that all in.”
The great experience stretches beyond the rink, as well.
“It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun,” said a relaxed Bergeron. “I’ve enjoyed my time here and Nashville has been very welcoming and the people have been nice.”