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.