Kelly, Dominant Penalty Kill Spark Bruins in Season Opening Win
BOSTON, MA - Midway through the first period of the Bruins' season opener at TD Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chris Kelly jumped on a shorthanded opportunity.
A breakaway chance led to a penalty shot, the first of his 10-year NHL career.
He sped down the straightaway, deked from his backhand to his forehand and opted for the backhander to flip it past Anders Lindback to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead 11:39 into the first period.
Marking the first goal of the Bruins' 2013-14 season, Milan Lucic then followed up with the eventual game-winner just a minute before the horn sounded on the second period, and Patrice Bergeron added another shorthanded tally early in the final frame to seal the 3-1 win.
"I try that move in practice but Tuukka doesn't move," Kelly remarked (and smirked) postgame. "It just goes into his pad, but I was happy [Lindback] bit. He's a big guy, you can't really shoot high, he takes away a lot of the upper deck, so I just tried to freeze him."
It worked this time. And it represented the beginning of a dominant night on the penalty kill, in which the B's killed five penalties, including two 5-on-3 chances and a 4-on-3 where Bergeron netted his goal.
"It’s nice to see him be confident right now, and even the penalty shot, a great move from an experienced player," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said of Kelly's game following the win.
But, for Kelly, his man-down goal would not have come without a little help from Tuukka Rask, who looked sharp while making 32 saves in the victory.
"Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer, I say it again and again. Tuukka was outstanding when we needed him to," said Kelly, who shared PK time with forwards Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand.
"And good sticks are important, taking their time and space away," added Kelly. "I think we did a good job at preventing a lot of seam passes and getting them into positions where we wanted them to be."
Tampa Bay's potent power play sees the likes of first liners Steven Stamkos (along with his one-timer), Marty St. Louis and the big body in front, Ryan Malone (who frequently battled - and shared words with - Zdeno Chara at the top of the crease).
The Bruins embrace the challenge of shutting them down.
"It’s pretty important. Especially when you go down two men like that, and you survive that twice in one game. That’s something we thrive on and we take a lot of pride in doing," said Rask. "And that’s been working well."
Boston had the league-leading penalty kill for most of 2012-13, often going stretched of 20-something straight kills, though they ended up finishing the season ranked fourth.
"Our penalty kill probably allowed us to win this game tonight," said Julien. "Because it’s an early 5-on-3 for almost two minutes [to end the first period] and the guys did a great job."
"They have some guys that can do some damage on the power play and our guys did a great job of being in the right position and not overreacting and taking the shots away from where they wanted them and whenever they did, Tuukka was up to the task and made the big saves."
"So those are really positive signs for our team," Julien later added. "And the fact that we were able to score a couple shorthanded goals as well."
The one that capped off the 3-1 came off the smooth hands of Bergeron, who played during the preseason, but certainly made his presence felt in his regular season game back in action following the injury-riddled end to his postseason.
"That’s what I said to Peter tonight – Bergy was Bergy. He didn’t look like he missed a beat," said Julien, of the centerman, who led all Bruins forwards in ice time (as per usual) with 20:02, and is doing an excellent job at helping others forget he had to take five weeks off this summer to rest before even beginning his training.
"He was back at being his reliable self and hard-working and everything else. He’s one of those guys that, although he had a short summer, he put priorities in the right place."
"He got married; I think he skipped his honeymoon so he could heal. So he’s a pretty dedicated individual when it comes to taking care of himself and he did a great job of that and that allowed him to be ready for the start of the season."
At 4:02 into the third period, Bergeron found the back of the net, with a slick move to fake a shot before cutting back to the middle and watching the puck trickle in behind Lindback over the goal line. It came on the penalty kill, with Torey Krug joining the rush with Bergeron to make it a 2-on-1.
Caron Grasping His Opportunity
Bergeron's tally made it 3-1, but in all actuality, it could have sealed a 4-1 game.
Off sync in the beginning of the game, the Bruins started to flow and find their rhythm as the second period progressed, laced with Rask's saves.
The frame had started off with Jordan Caron nearly giving the B's a 2-0 lead, driving the net and banging in a loose puck. With an early whistle blown at 2:06 into the second, Caron saw his effort ruled "no goal."
"Yeah, I got pretty jacked up when I saw it go in," Caron smiled postgame. "But then I heard the whistle and saw the ref waving it off. So I was a bit disappointed but I have to turn the page and keep going."
For Caron, it hasn't been the easiest journey - and if it weren't for Carl Soderberg's ankle injury, he might not have been in the opening night lineup - but playing on a line with Kelly and Reilly Smith, he made himself be noticed all night.
"I’ve seen him play well [before]; there’s been times where, spurts where he’s even produced a lot but I think right now he’s grasping the opportunity here," said Julien, of Caron. "And I thought he had a good game, that line was pretty good for us."
"Kelly, arguably our best player tonight. And Jordan and Smith, they really worked hard on the forecheck and made things happen."
"Jordan, I was extremely happy with his game."
Not a Bad Start
While this is only the first step in a long 82-game regular season, the Bruins and their coach are pleased with performance No. 1.
"I think our team is in a good place right now mentally and we’re ready for another big challenge this year," said Julien. "Whether we would have won last year or not, we would have had to turn the page this year and start all over again. So that’s what we’re doing, we’re starting from scratch and we have to earn a spot in the playoffs first before we even talk about anything else."
"And we’re willing to put the work towards that right now."