WILMINGTON -- With Ryan Spooner out of the lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins are getting a little creative with their forward groups as they enter a stretch of six must-win games to close out of the season.
Loui Eriksson will move to center from his natural wing position, taking the middle between Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes and attempting to give the B's something substantial from a third line that’s been very quiet lately.
Eriksson played a bit of center in last weekend’s win over the Maple Leafs after Spooner went down in the third period, his first time in the pivot since his days in Dallas. Spooner, suffering from an undisclosed injury, was missing from practice Monday and won’t be making the trip to New Jersey .
While Eriksson clearly doesn’t have Spooner's speed or experience at center, his high hockey IQ and two-way game should actually be good matches for a gig as a temporary middle man.
“We’ll see. I took some faceoffs last game, and I think I had one shift as a centerman in that last game [against Toronto],” said Eriksson, who was 2-for-4 in draws against the Leafs. “I did try it in Dallas. I had a few games in Dallas at center. It’s a little different. I kind of liked the work you have to put in as a centerman, and I’ll try to do my best.
“It’s obviously the faceoffs, and you have to be guy that comes home to play in the defensive zone. So it’s a little different and it’s probably going to take me a few shifts to get used to it. But I played it before, so hopefully I can do something good now.”
The Swedish forward is starting to heat up again offensively with three assists and 11 shots on net in the last three games. That’s a good thing for a team looking for offense anywhere it can find it right now, and perhaps encouraging that Eriksson can ably fill in the middle for at least one game with the Bruins in dire need of results right now.
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.
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.