Boston, MA - The Bruins - and every other NHL team - knew coming into the 2012-13 season that they needed to get off to a strong start. The rhetoric had been laced into every story since the start of training camp - of how the shortened 48-game season would be a fight to get through.
With tonight's 2-1 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, Boston is looking at a 5-0-1 start, having taken 11 of possible 12 points, and the most recent four points coming in the B's first of seven back-to-backs on the season. Down 1-0 heading into the third period, Nathan Horton's game-tying goal with 4:05 left in regulation got the Bruins into it, and Brad Marchand's sudden death shootout goal sealed the two points.
"Our guys have been really good. We’ve found ways to win," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told media following tonight's win. "To be a good team you’ve got to be able to do that."
"Not every night’s going to be a great night, but at the end of the day it’s about how hard you’re willing to work to get that win and our guys have been good at answering that call."
"I think more impressively was the fact that we really came out strong in the third period," said Julien. "Those back-to-back games, with travel in between, are not easy to work through. Really proud of the way our guys handled it."
There's a quote that hangs in the B's training room at Ristuccia in Wilmington - that Coach Julien had placed on the wall: "Some dream of success. Others wake up every day and work hard at it."
And that's exactly what the Black & Gold have had to do throughout these past six games - and what they had to do tonight.
The two disciplined systems of Boston and New Jersey led to a tight-checking game and strong display of goaltending on both ends - with Tuukka Rask fresh from not playing last night in Carolina and Johan Hedberg getting his first start since April 5, 2012 for New Jersey.
The scoreless first period - only the second time the B's had been held without a goal in the opening frame this season - saw each team fire nine shots on goal, with plenty of traffic in front leading to blocked shots and thwarted attempts.
"I thought it was a real heavy game. They are a legit, good team - and you know they didn't make it to the Finals by accident," said Coach Julien on the Devils' good body positioning and active, "heavy" sticks. "They’re hard to score on, they defend well but they’re also strong, and they are a hard team to play against."
"That’s why I think I’m really proud of the way our guys handled it tonight," Coach said of the Bruins coming into the game after playing 24 hours prior in Carolina. "They were here waiting for us, well rested."
"So I give our team a lot of credit."
Despite not facing many shots to start, Rask anchored the B's in goal, wowing the crowd with half-split and glove saves on the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson - who finished the game with seven shots - and came up with the timely, show-stopping saves when needed, even amidst New Jersey's traffic in front.
"I only had two shots in the first 10 minutes or something, they had a couple of back door plays, we were able to keep them out and then as the game went on it was kind of a typical Devils game," said Rask from in front of his locker room stall postgame. "They don’t give you those good shots, that make you feel comfortable. They try to get traffic in front of you and get those back doors."
But eventually Clarkson got the best of Rask on the power play in the second period - a goal that ended the B's 100-percent penalty kill at 24-for-24. After Johnny Boychuk went off for tripping with 7:22 left in the frame, it was Clarkson at the goal mouth who redirected Marek Zidlicky's long shot from the point to give New Jersey the 1-0 lead.
"I saw it hit a shaft of a stick - I saw it all the way but then those kinds of deflections, there’s nothing really you can do," said Rask, dissecting the quick redirect that went past him. "It just hits you or it doesn’t, and this time it went in."
Lucky for the Bruins, the phenomenal play of their top line - the trio that Coach Julien said has "certainly given us exactly what we need right now" - knotted the game 1-1 late in the third, when they started a three-man rush up ice. Milan Lucic to David Krejci to Nathan Horton and the forward sent the puck through Hedberg's five-hole for his second goal in as many games.
"You’re down a goal, you’re down two goals, it doesn’t matter you just work hard and fight back," said Horton. "That’s the kind of team we are and the kind of guys we are on our team."
"I think obviously with a guy with as much heart and lead on our team like Horty, seeing him do well really lifts everybody up," Tyler Seguin said following the win. "And he’s definitely a true leader, so I think everyone here has a lot of confidence."
Seguin's initial shootout goal kept the B's in it through five rounds, before Marchand's sudden death SO clincher and Rask's stop on Marek Zidlicky earned the extra point.
"They’re a very tough team to play against. They really don’t give you a lot of time and space," said Marchand after his shootout winner. "Especially our second game in two nights, they didn’t give us a whole lot. But we did a good job of getting two points."
McQuaid Back in the Lineup Thursday vs Buffalo
Adam McQuaid was a healthy scratch tonight. "We decided to give him that, he got in this morning but slept at the airport last night. There were some cancellations and there wasn’t much time between when he found out and when he had to leave so he basically slept in an airport," said Coach Julien. "And not having skated for a few days I thought it was more prudent, I guess, to let him skate a little bit and get a practice under his belt before we reinsert him."
McQuaid had spent the time away from the rink with his family, following his grandmother's passing. "Pretty close family and it was important for me to get back and pay my respects, to be with my family," said McQuaid. "Hockey's obviously a pretty important part of our life, but family, I think for everyone, comes first. I feel fortunate that I was able to be there.
Thornton vs. Barch
After 5:39 of back-and-forth action to start the first, Shawn Thornton and the Devils' Krystofer Barch decided that they needed to give their teams - and the crowd - a spark. The pair squared off at center ice in a very long and entertaining bout between two heavyweights that lasted one minutes and 17 seconds, with the most memorable punch a strong left that came from No. 22. Thornton and Barch have fought twice before, when the Devil was with the Florida Panthers. For the record, Boston is now 46-16-9 when Thornton receives a fighting major.
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