BOSTON – Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand had been close to scoring the past six games before Tuesday, but he was stuck on eight goals prior to facing the Nashville Predators.
Marchand broke out of his drought in a big way by scoring twice, including the game-winner, as the Bruins won their second in a row by defeating the Nashville Predators 5-3 at TD Garden.
Marchand gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 2:01 into the first period. His second goal of the game gave the Bruins a 4-2 lead with 10:51 elapsed in the second period. Forward Loui Eriksson also scored twice, including an empty-net goal.
The Bruins (18-14-3) have won two in a row for the first time since a three-game win streak from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21. The Bruins are still outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“I mean we’re aware of it. You know, we watch the standings and we’re aware of the teams who are climbing ahead of us and we know that we have to be better,” Marchand said. “It just seemed like every time we made a mistake it would end up in our net and we couldn’t score, but the last couple of games we showed some character and we’ve got to be happy with two wins and it was definitely nice to get the four points going into the break. So we know that we’ve got a big job ahead of us, but we’re confident that we can be much better.”
Boston has fallen into the bottom third of the League this season in goals per game (2.5). Marchand became the first Bruins player to reach 10 goals.
“Yeah, in the past we’ve had a few guys who have always produced early on, but I think it’s coming around now,” Marchand said. “You know, you see how many goals Loui has the last few games and [Smith] has been scoring a lot lately too, so that’s what we need and better late than never and hopefully we can continue that.”
Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton made 20 saves in his first start since Nov. 20 (13 games). Nashville (22-9-2) has not won in regulation in Boston since Nov. 28, 2003, a stretch of five straight games. The Predators had 15 shots on goal in the third period after they had 10 through 40 minutes.
“We have a group that believes we can win every night even when we’re down two, we have the mentality that we are going to come out with a win,” Nashville forward Colin Wilson said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t tie it up but we can definitely build off of that character that we showed in the third.”
The Bruins and Predators exchanged goals twice in the first period. A Nashville giveaway led to a give-and-go with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Marchand scored on a wrist shot from the slot at 2:01 to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Wilson answered at 7:35 after James Neal gained the zone, drew the Boston defense to him and passed the puck to Wilson, who tied the score 1-1.
During a power play, Bruins center David Krejci scored on a one-timer he only got a piece of from the top of the left circle at 9:43 to put Boston back in front 2-1. Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok evened the score 2-2 with a goal from the left circle that went past Rask under his right arm at 11:31.
Rask, who made 22 saves, didn’t make any excuses for the tying goal.
“No, I saw it. It was just a weak goal,” he said. “Weak, weak goal, but luckily it didn’t cost us today. I always want to play a perfect game and today definitely wasn’t a perfect game, but there’s been times where I’ve played really good and we’ve lost 2-1, 3-2, and stuff like that. Today, I wasn’t at my best, but guys bailed me out and played a heck of a game.”
Eriksson gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead in the second period when he buried a cross-ice pass from Matt Bartkowski from the right side of the slot at 5:53. Marchand scored his second goal of the game after a fortuitous bounce off Bergeron went right to him at the left side of the slot. Marchand shot the puck into the open net at 10:51 to increase Boston’s lead to two goals.
The Predators are 0-3-1 with Hutton in goal this season.
“I thought he played good,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “There was a couple of tough breaks, the Marchand goal where it redirects and ends up on somebody’s stick back door, there’s not much you can do about that. The one off the rush we had two guys fall behind the net in the offensive zone, we ended up losing a man and making it a 4-on-3. I thought he got in there and battled and I think there are some things that we could have done better in front of him.”
The Predators had to kill a double-minor penalty against Neal early in the third period. They kept the momentum by scoring the next goal. Taylor Beck took advantage of a Boston giveaway and scored at 6:48 to cut the Bruins’ lead to 4-3 before Eriksson’s empty-net goal sealed the victory.