Bruins

Vatrano, DeBrusk end goal-scoring droughts

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Vatrano, DeBrusk end goal-scoring droughts

BOSTON – On a night when the Bruins needed more from players that hadn’t been providing it lately, a couple of them came through early in a big way.

Both Jake DeBrusk (eight games) and Frank Vatrano (25 games, that dated back to last season) ended long goal-scoring droughts in the 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. 

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With DeBrusk it was a nice play where he attacked with speed, separated Jarred Spurgeon from a puck close to the Minnesota net and then banked a puck off Ryan Suter in front on its way past Devan Dubnyk in the wild net. It was part of four shots on net and a couple of hits for DeBrusk in 16:29 and a nice little carrot for the youngster after putting in a lot of hard work in between scoring his second and third goals of the season.

It certainly looked at times like the left wing was left wide open by the Wild for Boston’s wingers to motor up and down making plays and that’s exactly what they did.

“It’s nice to see Jake [DeBrusk] get rewarded, even though it was a bit of a lucky goal. We talk about his foot speed, getting his legs underneath him, he’s attacking, winning pucks and if you get towards the net you’re going to get some of those breaks so good for him,” said Bruce Cassidy of his rookie winger. “I think we’ve wanted to play that way. I think in training camp you start to see some of it when Jake [DeBrusk] was there, he can motor. Frank [Vatrano] can go in straight lines. I think it just worked out that we’re able to hunt down pucks.

“I talked about our breakouts earlier. We want to be low support in our zone, not getting out of there too soon. I think earlier in the year we talked about some of those high flips, skating on to them, so we’ve balanced that better now. Being in our zone when it’s appropriate to support it low and then get it going when our defensemen have a chance to get it out. So that worked out well for us tonight and that’s all it was. Nothing to do with I think how Minnesota played, it was more about the personnel we have and the situations that have presented themselves.”

Similarly, Vatrano played with straight-line speed all night and snapped in a bit of a knuckling puck that was on edge from long distance and dinged off the post and then off Devan Dubnyk for his first goal of the season in his 10th game. The goal was coming off being a healthy scratch for each of the previous two games and the hope is that it can set off the 23-year-old that has the talent and shot/release to go on a bit of an offensive binge with a little more confidence.

“[Vatrano] had a lot of pep in his step. I mean, obviously, he’s got a lot of pride. He didn’t like being scratched from the lineup. I think the goal really helps him. He’s a goal scorer and it’s been a while so when you get a break like that and you shoot enough times, it got him excited to play the rest of the game,” said Cassidy. “He’s been working on that part of his game in fairness to him, being a complete player, and it’s a work in progress for a lot of guys, a lot of young guys. So we liked it. We need secondary scoring and he was able to provide some of that.”

The trick for both now is to get each of those revitalized players into a stretch where they can heat up offensively and help offset the Bruins missing three of their top six wingers with David Krejci, Brad Marchand and David Backes all out. 

Bergeron notches second hat trick in six games

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Bergeron notches second hat trick in six games

GOLD STAR: Who else but Patrice Bergeron? The Bruins center finishes with three goals and his second hat trick in a span of six games, and now has 11 goals scored in his last 11 games during a wicked goal-scoring spree. Bergeron clearly wasn’t just about the goals as he also finished with four shots on net and won 12-of-18 face-offs in his 15:39 of ice time, but it’s amazing how he’s been able to get into so many great scoring positions while always facing the other team’s best defensive players. It speaks to just how good he is when he gets those chances in the slot, and how good both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are at getting the puck to him in the spots where he can do his offensive damage. Bergeron now has 19 goals on the season and continues to roll out some serious offensive numbers for a Bruins team that’s just destroying their opponents. Bergeron is the first Bruins player to score two hat tricks in the span of six games since Rick Tocchet did it in five games back in 1996 for the Black and Gold.

BLACK EYE: The Barclays Center shouldn’t be housing NHL hockey games, and thankfully won’t be in the near future when the Isles move out of Brooklyn. That being said, it had to demoralize whatever fans have made the move to Brooklyn to see so many Bruins hats get tossed on the ice from Boston fans after Bergeron scored his third goal of the game. The Islanders games have always felt like de facto home games for the Black and Gold given the huge contingent of B’s fans that make the trip to New York for these games. But it’s all the more of a gut punch when it turns into those road warrior Bruins fans loudly and animatedly celebrating goals, wins and hat tricks in front of the Islanders players and coaches. That’s a tough spot for them to be in during what’s supposed to be a strong home ice presence, but that’s life at a Barclays Center that makes me pine for Nassau Coliseum. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins gave up the first goal of the game on a bad Brandon Carlo turnover in the D-zone, and it could have gone against them in the second night of a back-to-back on the road. But the Bruins dug in, reversed the momentum and instead found the Bergeron line to lead the way with their first goal scored in the game. After that they just continued to pour on the hard work, the offense and the Bergeron goals as he scored three overall and the Bruins rode the momentum wave into five goals and a strong finish in the third period. In two straight games the Bruins have given up the first goal, and it doesn’t even cause them to bat an eyelash. 

HONORABLE MENTION: On the second  night of a back-to-back game Zdeno Chara logged 25:32 of ice time, blocked four shots including a couple during a penalty kill that left him shaking his right hand in pain on the bench and threw three hits while holding the high-powered Islanders to just a couple of goals in the game. It wasn’t a particularly dazzling night of work for the 6-foot-9 defenseman, but the Isles really had limited offensive looks thanks to Chara playing big, strong and powerful in the defensive zone. The big ice time number is perhaps most impressive of all coming after Chara also played a big role in Boston’s win over the Habs at the Garden on Wednesday night. We’re still a long way away from Chara proving he can do this kind of thing night after night in the playoffs as a 40-year-old, but he showed a little something on Thursday night. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of consecutive games with a point for the Bruins as they’ve posted an 11-0-4 record over those games, and matched a 15-game point streak from the 2011-12 season in the year after they won the Cup. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I like the way we closed out the game in the third period. In a back-to-back there were issues at the beginning and ending of the game, and we fought through it and didn’t let the game get away from us. In the third period in their building they were going to make a push, and I thought we were really, really good in terms of generating the offense and keeping the puck away from the front of the net. I was proud of the guys for that. That was a good, strong finish.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN postgame about what we liked most in the 5-2 win over the Isles. 

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Bergeron notches hat trick as Bruins defeat Islanders, 5-2

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Bergeron notches hat trick as Bruins defeat Islanders, 5-2

NEW YORK -- A day after going without a shot on goal, Patrice Bergeron regained his scoring touch for the rolling Boston Bruins.

Bergeron scored three goals Thursday night for his second hat trick in less than two weeks, leading Boston to a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders that gave the Bruins at least a point for the 15th consecutive game.

Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists as Boston improved to 11-0-4 since its last regulation loss Dec. 14 against Washington - its best stretch since going 15-0-1 from March 2-30, 2014.

Bergeron had at least three goals in a game for the third time in his career and just 12 days after a four-goal performance at home against Carolina. He hadn't scored since that five-point night, but had four assists in four games, including two in a win at home against Montreal on Wednesday night.

"Last game was one of those nights where I was trying to find my wingers," the 32-year-old center said. "Tonight I was getting the looks again and I was trying to take them."

With 19 goals in 39 games this season, Bergeron is on pace to eclipse his career high of 32 set two season ago.

"I feel like I'm shooting just as much, maybe I get some better looks and Brad is finding me a little bit more in the slot," Bergeron said. "Puck goes in sometimes and sometimes it doesn't, and right now it is so I'm going to try to keep shooting and keep trying to find the back of the net."

Ryan Spooner had a goal and an assist, and Anton Khudobin stopped 22 shots as the Bruins improved to 20-3-4 since Nov. 15 and pulled within five points of first-place Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.

Jordan Eberle and John Tavares scored for New York, which has dropped seven of 10 - with each of the losses coming in regulation. Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves.

Bergeron completed the hat trick when he took a pass from Marchand, spun and fired from the left circle at 3:45 of the third period.

"When he's playing the way he is right now, it's fun to watch," Marchand said. "It's fun to be on the ice with him."

Tavares' 25th pulled the Islanders within two with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining. Marchand capped the scoring with his 20th, an empty-netter with just over a minute to go.

Boston took control with two goals in the second period and sealed it with two more in the third.

Spooner put Boston ahead 2-1 near the midpoint of the second. Off a faceoff in the Islanders' zone to Halak's left, Spooner backhanded the puck past the goalie for his seventh at 9:47.

Just 15 seconds after New York's Anders Lee was sent off for tripping, Bergeron got the puck on the right side after Torey Krug's shot went off Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech's leg and beat Halak with 6:11 left in the middle period. Krug got his 200th career point on the play.

"They got a break on the second goal," New York coach Doug Weight said. "The (power-play goal) slapped us in the face and we got away from our game. We got frustrated in the third (period)."

Eberle gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 7:35 into the game when he beat Khudobin for his 15th. Mathew Barzal got his 32nd assist and 48th point on the play - both tops among all NHL rookies.

The Bruins tied it with 6:19 left in the first when Bergeron fired it past Halak from the inside edge of the right circle.

NOTES: Barzal has eight assists and 11 points in the last five games. ... Islanders F Josh Bailey, headed to his first All-Star game, returned to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury. He had an assist on Tavares' goal. ... The Bruins swept the three-game season series, also winning 3-1 at home on Dec. 9 and 5-1 in New York on Jan. 2. ... Boston has won seven straight on the Islanders' home ice since a 3-1 loss at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 2, 2013. That includes five visits to Barclays Center, the Islanders' home since the start of the 2015-16 season. ... Bergeron has nine goals and 14 points in his last eight games. ... Marchand, the Bruins' leader in goals, assists and points, has five goals and nine assists in his last seven games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At Montreal on Saturday to wrap a two-game trip.

Islanders: At Chicago on Saturday to open a three-game road trip heading into the All-Star break.