Eriksson Eases Pressure with First Goal and Game-Winner as a Bruin
COLUMBUS, OH - Loui Eriksson may not admit it, but he was likely feeling pressure to get on the board as a Bruin.
He only had to wait four games, netting his first in the spoked-B on Saturday, the game-winner in a 3-1 matinee victory over the Blue Jackets in Columbus at Nationwide Arena. Boston improved to 3-1-0 on the season.
Chris Kelly netted the game-tying goal and Milan Lucic added an empty-netter, both their second goals on the season.
Eriksson's winner came just 49 seconds into the third period, with the game knotted at 1-1. After Reilly Smith tipped in a neutral zone chip-in from Johnny Boychuk, Patrice Bergeron pounced on the puck down the left side and quickly fed a cross-ice pass to Eriksson, who whacked in an off-angle backhander.
"I think he only scores nice goals," remarked Tuukka Rask, who is often the brunt of that part of Eriksson's game in practices. "It’s unbelievable, he does that in practice all the time too. It’s good to see him getting that one early on and hopefully he can make a streak out of that."
The goal came on the first shift in the third period, after Head Coach Claude Julien had swapped his second and third line wingers, slotting in Smith on the left wing with Bergeron and Eriksson.
"He’s been fighting it the last little while here and sometimes you have to take a guy away from where he is and take some of the pressure off," said Julien, of the line change. "It’s not because he doesn’t want to do well – in his mind he’s trying, he just has to find his game."
"And sometimes putting him on another line and taking some of the pressure off will help him find his game there a little bit there. He’s fighting it, there’s no doubt he’s fighting it and as a coach you make the change that you think is right in order to win a hockey game."
"So we know how good he can be, right now he just has to fight through it and find his game."
"They scored right away, so it worked," Marchand said postgame, of the switch. He logged 14:11 of ice time, registering a shot and a hit.
"Just got to get back to playing simple and playing the system and things will fall into place."
While trying to find the spark in his game, it didn't take away from Marchand being happy for his usual linemate's first of the season.
"It was great to see him get one there, it was a beautiful goal and nice to get the monkey off the back and especially the game-winner."
Though the Eriksson got his first when the trio was separated, he had showed his coach strong play throughout the entire game.
"Yeah he was really good," said Julien. "Smart plays again, competing better and stuff like that. That’s what we talked about – you have to give those guys some time to get adjusted and acquainted and feeling comfortable in our room and with the players and on the ice and everything else."
"We talked about that 'month' that we want to give to those guys before we start assessing them and you’re seeing a guy after a few games here starting to find his stride."
"I think I had some slow starts in earlier years too and I know it’ll come," said Eriksson. "You see great chances out there, so luckily we did that today and I was able to follow through."
He nearly made a bid for a hat trick, getting a chance in close in the first, and then facing the right corner post above Sergei Bobrovsky in the third. Eriksson was a plus-1 with his goal in 19:18 of ice time in the win. He fired six shots on goal.
"That’s just him getting more comfortable," said Julien, when asked if he appeared to be playing differently, being more involved. "And doing the things that is feeling right for him and that’s an adjustment on ice, off ice, in your everyday life with your family."
"There’s a lot more than just coming in and playing the game, so I think with time he’s just getting better and more comfortable. But I saw a guy, no doubt, having the puck more on the stick tonight than any other game."
"It wasn’t the prettiest one but I’ll take it," said Eriksson. "It was nice to see it go in."
Kelly's Confident Play Continues
That seemed to be theme on Saturday, as Chris Kelly found the back of the net for his second goal of the season to tie the game at 16:18 into the second period.
"I was surprised that it went in; didn't really know it went in until I skated around the net but I'll take it," said the center.
After just stepping out of the penalty box, with the B's killing off his penalty, Kelly was hit with a feed from Jarome Iginla and fired a long-range slap shot from just inside the blueline. He figured he might generate a rebound; he earned a goal.
"That was gorgeous by my standards," he joked, when it was suggested that it wasn't the prettiest goal, but a goal nonetheless. "It was a great play. First off, it was a great penalty kill. Iggy lost his stick, broke his stick early in that kill and they did a great job holding them."
The Bruins' had given up a power play goal with only 1:08 left in the first period, when Columbus to a 1-0 lead on Jack Johnson's shot from the high slot. The Blue Jackets entered the game 10th in the league on the man-advantage.
Before Kelly's tally, the B's had gone just over 104 minutes without finding the back of the net, having been shut out by Colorado int heir previous game.
"I think, not scoring for a length of time – but when we got that first one it seemed that the wheels were turning and we controlled the play quite well and had a few other great scoring chances," said Kelly.
Changing the Tide
Prior to Kelly's goal, the Bruins had generated shots, but not as many chances. At the ether end, Rask only faced four shots from Columbus in the first, but the Blue Jackets had gotten on the board with their fourth.
Luckily for the Bruins, the penalty kill and Kelly then helped build momentum.
"We were grinding it out and we weren’t getting much until that point. I thought our forwards worked hard tonight and on our forecheck we were pretty good. But I didn’t think our backend moved the puck as well as you want them to," said Julien.
"Our whole backend struggled tonight in my mind and that kind of took away the pace of our game. But the forwards worked hard and Chris got that goal and just seemed to give us a little bit more life. But the third period was a little bit better in ways that we used the points a little bit more and were able to spread them out and get some more scoring chances."
Rask Gets Assistance
The Bruins ended the night with 18 blocked shots on the scoresheet, but it seemed like more than that. Or maybe, all of the blocks were opportunistic.
Chris Kelly had a block on the penalty kill and had to head down the tunnel, but only missed one shift.
"We knew their power play has been good, has been really hot and they create a lot of shots," Rask said postgame. "They didn’t get too many shots through because we blocked them."
"We blocked a lot of shots today which is great. Makes it a little bit tougher when you’re getting shots and your team is on the penalty kill and they got the goal but fortunately it was the only one."
Bartkowski Gets In
As Julien has promised, Matt Bartkowski got into the lineup on Saturday against Columbus, playing in his first game of 2013-14. Dougie Hamilton was the healthy scratch, as Bartkowski paired with Dennis Seidenberg.
"Right now, I’ve got no complaints about our D, they’ve been pretty good," Julien had said before facing the Blue Jackets. "But at the same time, there’s a guy that’s sitting out that’s also a good player that we’re going to have to get into our lineup as well."
"So there could be some changes made with guys coming out, not necessarily because of play but because early in the year you want to move guys around and give them a chance to play."
Bartkowski played for 14:47, recording three shots and two hits on the stat sheet.
"Yeah absolutely," reaffirming that the decision to put in Bartkowski was to simply get him into a game to keep the rust off.
"You could see he hadn’t played in a while. He was like a lot of our other Ds there, fighting it a little bit, but we know how good he is and how well he skates so that’s a reason why you don’t want to let those guys sit too long – because it only gets worse."