Vatrano's instant offense giving the Bruins a boost

Vatrano's instant offense giving the Bruins a boost

BRIGHTON, Mass – It certainly isn’t as simple as “cause and hockey effect”, but there’s no denying that the Bruins’ much-maligned offense has taken a tick upward since 22-year-old Frank Vatrano rejoined the lineup.

Vatrano missed the first 34 games of the season while coming back from left foot surgery, but has hit the ground running after just a couple of AHL warm-up games. Vatrano has two goals and four points along with a plus-3 in his first five games in Boston this season while averaging a 14:06 of ice time in the handful of NHL games. Meanwhile the Bruins offense has scored power play goals in four of those five games, and have averaged three goals per game over that span after spending most of the first three months scoring less than that nightly.

So things are going pretty well for the kid from East Longmeadow, who scored just 1:28 into Saturday afternoon’s win over Buffalo to get the Bruins the good start they’d been looking for over the last couple of weeks. It was also Vatrano’s first goal ever scored on the TD Garden ice after logging 39 games with the Bruins last season, so it was also kind of special to him.

“Being from [Massachusetts], obviously everyone’s dream growing up is to score in the Garden. For me, it was pretty cool to be able to do that and it was even better that we got a win out of it,” said Vatrano, who scored 44 goals between Boston and Providence last season. “I knew I was going to get there eventually, I just had to be patient and I wanted to be ready when I stepped [back] in the lineup. They knew when I was ready so I stepped right in. Obviously [the foot injury] was frustrating, but I’m glad to be back now with the guys.”

Vatrano was penciled in for a top-6 wing role alongside David Krejci prior to his injury just ahead of training camp, and the Bruins had high hopes for him playing a finisher’s role on a hockey club with plenty of playmaker-type talents. Now he’s delivering for the Black and Gold a few months after first anticipated while showing off the shot and release of a natural born goal-scorer.

“He’s got a good shot, and he’s not afraid to shoot,” said B’s forward and fellow New England native Tim Schaller. “Skilled players in this league might try to make an extra pass here and there, but he’s got the mindset…he’s going to put the puck in the back of the net. He’s worked on his shot a lot and it’s showing.”

Both Vatrano and the Bruins have to hope his scoring and high-end production continues for both player and the team. If it does then the Bruins have found one of the offensive answers they were looking over the first three months of the season, and they uncovered it in a player from their own backyard. 

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

AP Photo

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

TALKING POINTS: B's resiliency on full display vs Stars

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.