BOSTON, MA - When the Bruins force their style on opponents, they come out on the winning end. That's a fact. Hemming teams in their own zone, being relentless on the backcheck, playing with energy, alertness and anticipation.
The effort produced a 3-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday afternoon to give the B's their third straight win, all in the confines of TD Garden.
A two-goal outburst in just 20 seconds from Patrice Bergeron and Daniel Paille gave Boston their jolt, and Jarome Iginla sealed the victory with an empty-netter. Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 shots he faced to extend the Bruins' shutout streak of the Lightning to 149:28, spanning back to last season.
"It’s playing with emotion; engaged," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said following the game. "Sometimes, mentally, you go through a phase where it’s a little tougher than other times."
"The positive thing is I think we’re finding our game and we seem to be heading in the right direction."
Boston came out and landed the first six shots of the game before the Bolts fired one on Rask. The energy was there from the start.
But it took until the 17:09 mark of the second for Bergeron to break through, driving the net and firing home a loose puck from the top of the crease. Brad Marchand had streaked up the left wing, hitting Torey Krug as the trailer. Krug's initial shot hit Loui Eriksson in front as he was flying through the crease, and Bergeron potted his sixth of the season.
"I thought all the lines – you could see Marchy and Bergy just – they’re starting to really, you can see they’re feeling it, and Lou - they’re a top checking line," said Iginla, who fired a team-high four shots on goal, helping to contribute in his own hard working ways before scoring the empty-netter.
"It’s really hard to play when you’re trying to score against a checking line. But now they’re scoring on you and putting pressure on you and that’s what you can see."
The B's often counter a goal with a shift by the Merlot Line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. They quickly capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone, with Paille racing down the left side in a 2-on-1 rush with Thornton, and slipping a backhander past Tampa Bay's Anders Lindback just :20 after Bergeron's tally.
"The responsibility lies in us when you go out there after a goal to follow up with a good shift and it doesn’t have to be necessarily a goal but it definitely has to be a momentum shift for our team and to continue that," said Campbell, who recorded his first point of the season with the assist.
"The goal was made by Danny, but the trust that Claude instills in us to go out there after a shift is big."
"That’s the type of role we accept as a line," said Paille, after notching his second goal of the season. "And it’s a big bonus that a goal came right out of it. For us, we’re going to do everything we can to score some goals and create that energy like we do every game."
The B's ended the night with eight recorded takeaways, 31 hits and 14 blocked shots. Stats aren't necessarily always a representation of the game, but Boston touched every area of the scoresheet in the win, and every area of the ice.s
"Tight checking, great goaltending, all the way around," said Iginla. "Everybody’s really contributed in the last few games. We can all feel good about ourselves being part of the win and that’s what you want to do."
"Our back pressure was probably as good tonight as it’s been all year and we’ve talked about that for a while," said Julien.
The defensive effort was sharp, from the back end out, with the Bruins outbattling the Bolts and keeping their sticks active and well-positioned. The support was there.
"We’ve got a lot of new faces in our lineup that when we looked at video, you could see the guys that have been around with our team for a while, it’s automatic. For those other guys, when you’ve played a different kind of system, the back pressure is different or sometimes just picking up a man is what other teams want," Julien added, of the team's shift over the past few games.
"So they’re adjusting as well and I thought tonight was as good as I’ve seen it.
"It’s not always just about goals. You love to score as a line, we all love to score and that’s what you’re trying to do is outscore the other team, obviously. But it’s about zone time," said Iginla.
The Bruins don't play a run-and-gun game; the play a territorial style. When at its best, it frustrates the opponent and dictates the pace of the game. When they let a team like the Lightning use its speed, they fall back on their heels.
"Our D are really good at coming down the walls and trying to hem teams in. So, it’s about physical play, it’s about trying to get to the net…But the biggest thing that we’re all trying to do is get that zone time. Just wear [them] down."
At the other end, that relentless nature is there as well. When there's a lapse, they always have someone to fall back on.
"A lot of that has to do with Tuukka," said Matt Bartkowski, of Rask's oft-overlooked impact on the game. It comes because he usually makes saves look fairly effortless, like a quick post-to-post movement on a wraparound early in the third period, with the B's holding a 2-0 lead. Easy.
"It’s kind of becoming expected out of him, so it’s a regular thing. It’s important not to forget about what he does. In my mind he’s the best goalie in the league, and he shows that game in game out."
"It makes it easier to play," added the blueliner, who slid into the lineup with Adam McQuaid sidelined with a lower-body injury. He didn't show much rust, but was well aware he'd have backup if need be. "Knowing that if you do make a mistake, he’ll clean it up for you."
Rask and the Bruins have two shutouts this season, with both coming against Tampa.
"I don’t know, I think we’ve played pretty good games against them though, so I haven’t had to be like unbelievable out there and make back door saves all the time," said Rask. "So I think some of the best games we’ve played have been against them and that obviously helps the goalie."
The Bruins will look to keep building that all-around momentum, as they head into a stretch of four games next with two back-to-backs.
"Our team had been going through a bit of a slump here. We didn’t play with the energy, also the cohesion that you need to play well," said Julien. "We had been trying to fight our way out of it and I think, right now, we’re finding our game slowly but surely."
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