Bruins

Kuraly, Nash step up for shorthanded Bruins

Kuraly, Nash step up for shorthanded Bruins

BOSTON – With a handful of Bruins players down with injuries, the cliché has been that it creates opportunities for others to step up into the void. 

There hadn’t been an overwhelming number of B’s players that have really raised their game thus far, but that changed on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights as both Sean Kuraly and Riley Nash had their best games of the season. Kuraly and Nash were the two goal-scorers for the Bruins in the tight-checking 2-1 win over the Golden Knights at TD Garden, and found a way to light the lamp with Vegas’ defense focused on shutting down the stacked Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak line.

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“That’s what this league is about. A lot of top lines are really good. Patrice Bergeron [and his line] certainly win their share of battles, but a lot of times they can also cancel out. At that point it can become a special teams battle, or a battle of the third and fourth lines,” said Nash, who scored the game’s first goal on a second-effort bid in front of the net after his first shot rocketed off the post. “I think at this point our third and fourth lines haven’t contributed enough, myself included. It just has been a tight-checking so far, so hopefully these can help out the confidence and we can start contributing more on a regular basis. That can help our team put some winning streaks together.”

Certainly, it was about Nash scoring the first goal for the Bruins in the second period, and then it was about Kuraly crashing the net in the third period while fighting through Brayden McNabb trying to take him out of the play. 

Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk had each initially fired up shots at the Vegas net that were stopped by Maxime Lagace, but the big-bodied Kuraly was the one that finally broke after driving straight toward the Vegas net. Both Bruins goals in the Vegas win were second-chance efforts right around the front of the net, and that’s exactly what the B’s coaching staff has been preaching for weeks while waiting for it to arrive. 

On Thursday night against a fourth-string rookie goalie ripe for the pressure, the Bruins finally started to kick in their dues-paying, blue-collar production in a winning effort despite missing some pretty big offensive guns. 

“It was good to see Sean get rewarded. He’s certainly more than willing to go to those [dangerous scoring] areas. Those are the type of goals he’s going to score,” Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s not a guy who’s going to come down the wing and inside-out someone generally and blast it in. He’ll track pucks down, loose pucks, breakaways, and second chances. So, good for him [to score a goal].

“The opportunities will be there. We’re not asking anybody to be something they’re not, but be what you are on a regular basis, and you’ll get plenty of opportunity. Riley fits into that category and I was happy for him. He’s a guy that pitches in offensively and he had a tough start that way, so maybe this will get him going a little bit confidence-wise.”

Certainly the Bruins can’t expect to get scoring from secondary contributors like Nash and Kuraly every single night, but even a gradual uptick in their production could go a long way toward absorbing some of the organizational losses currently incurred by the injuries thus far to Krejci, Backes, Spooner, Acciari and Adam McQuaid among others.

That was the case on Thursday night as skilled, bottom-6 veteran forwards in Nash and Kuraly proved just important they could be in showing the young B’s players how to get things done. 

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TALKING POINTS: Bruins limp home after long road trip

TALKING POINTS: Bruins limp home after long road trip

GOLD STAR: Former Boston University standout Evan Rodrigues had a heck of a game against the Bruins with a goal and two points in his 15:31 of ice time, including the dagger third goal for Buffalo that really broke the spirits of the Black and Gold. It was a beauty of a goal too as he was able to flash to the face-off circle and step into a dish from Sam Reinhart that Anton Khudobin didn’t have any chance of stopping. In all Rodrigues had two shots on net, six shot attempts and won 6-of-10 draws in the face-off circle in a pretty solid all-around night for the Sabres. It’s still early in his pro career, obviously, but maybe there is a bright future for more than one BU kid out in Buffalo?

BLACK EYE: No shots on net and a killer giveaway for Danton Heinen in the offensive zone that led to Buffalo’s back-breaking third goal meant it wasn’t a very good night for the Bruins rookie. It really wasn’t much of  a positive night for many of Boston’s young players as 21-year-old Brandon Carlo was a healthy scratch, Heinen’s only play of consequence was a very negative one and Jake DeBrusk didn’t have a shot on net in his 13:52 of ice time. Clearly though the roughest night was for Heinen as he was the player that couldn’t make the strong play when he needed to, and that really short-circuited any attempts by the Bruins to mount a comeback against Buffalo. The Bruins know they’re going to have to weather the storm with their young guys through a tough end of the season, and Sunday night was one of the examples of just that.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins just didn’t come out ready to play less than 24 hours after losing to Toronto, and dropped behind by a pair of goals in the middle of the first period. One was a Sabres power play that had just expired, and the second was a PP goal allowed to Buffalo with Patrice Bergeron getting his mouth fixed in the B’s dressing room and Zdeno Chara in the box serving a penalty. That was a point where somebody had to step up on the Bruins penalty kill unit and they didn’t with Sam Reinhart screening Anton Khudobin as Kyle Okposo fired a shot through the screen on the way to the back of the net. The Bruins managed just eight shots on net in the period, gave up two goals and didn’t have their legs in a bad, bad start for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rick Nash didn’t put any pucks past old friend Chad Johnson, but he did give a preview of what he might be able to do in a Bruins uniform. Nash finished with five shots on net, nine shot attempts and dinged one off the inside of the far post after David Krejci had dropped a pass to him in the high slot area. Nash and Krejci looked like they had instant chemistry together, which is great news for the Black and Gold looking for a second line that’s going to generate more offense for the rest of the season. The hope now for Nash is that he’ll start putting home some of those shots as he gets settled into a Bruins uniform, and will be the power forward-type that Krejci has always flourished with in the past.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of consecutive regulation losses this weekend with defeats to Toronto and Buffalo, the first time since mid-November that the B’s have lost two games in a row in regulation.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no secret about it. We want to make a run. Obviously a trade like [the Rick Nash deal] makes our team better." –David Krejci.

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Lowly Sabres defeat sluggish Bruins 4-1

Lowly Sabres defeat sluggish Bruins 4-1

BUFFALO – The Bruins knew going in that it was going to be a tough one against the Buffalo Sabres at the end of a long five game road trip, and that’s exactly what they played like on the ice.

The Bruins never held a lead and were never really in a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center that saw them lose their third game to the lowly Sabres in four tries this season. Instead it was the Sabres that jumped out with a pair of goals scored in the first period and never looked back in a game where the Black and Gold clearly didn’t have their “A” game. 

Old friend Benoit Pouliot scored on a scramble in front right after a Sabres power play had expired, and two minutes later Kyle Okposo fired a power play goal through a Sam Reinhart screen right in front of Anton Khudobin.

The Bruins responded a bit in the second period with Charlie McAvoy’s sixth of the season after crashing backdoor to finish off a David Pastrnak feed, but they couldn’t score again despite a 16 shot barrage in the middle 20 minutes. Instead Evan Rodrigues stepped into a shot that fired past Khudobin to extend the Sabres lead. Marco Scandella clinched it when he threw a long distance shot off the side boards that seemed to surprise Khudobin at the net.

The good news for the Bruins was that newcomer Rick Nash looked pretty good wearing a No. 61 Bruins uniform and had a number of scoring chances throughout the game teamed up with David Krejci on Boston’s second line. But otherwise the only positive development was that Patrice Bergeron was able to play despite sustaining a right foot injury in Saturday night’s loss to the Leafs, and getting the double whammy of a high stick to the face in the first period of Sunday’s loss as well.

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