SOUTH BEND, Indiana – Just call fourth line center Sean Kuraly by his proper nickname, “Mr. Big Game” after he once again came through for the Bruins in a big moment for the team.
Kuraly has only scored 10 goals in his entire NHL career, but he’s also got three game-winning goals, a two-goal playoff game against Ottawa a couple of years ago and now a game-winner in the Winter Classic among his impressive resume of lamp-lighters. In fact, two of the game-winners have now come back-to-back after Kuraly scored the overtime winner in Buffalo last weekend to add to Tuesday night’s third period rebound score in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Blackhawks at the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium.
“[Kuraly] is thriving in the big games right now,” said Brad Marchand. “He’s doing the little things right and that line is playing very well right now too. The way they work, and hound the puck, and play physical to create turnovers, they’re going to get their chances. They’re taking pucks to the net more. Those guys are also working their bags off in practice and after trying to get better, and it’s showing right now. So they deserve some credit.”
As with most of the fourth line energy guys, Kuraly was happy to give credit to his teammates on the ice for helping to make it all happen. Both Chris Wagner and Kevan Miller set the tone for the shift with some thumping physicality, and then it was Matt Grzelcyk that fired the point shot off Wagner right in front of the net. The puck bounced fortuitously right to Kuraly crashing toward the net and the big-bodied, hard-charging center simply fired it into the vacant area for his fourth goal of the season.
The goal midway through the third period gave the Bruins their first lead of the game at Notre Dame, and they didn't look back after that as Kuraly's line kept getting the call to help close out Boston's Classic win.
Like most of Kuraly’s goals, it’s about hustle and hard work getting to the net while making certain the hands are good and ready when the work ethic turns into opportunity.
“As you can tell, it feels pretty good. I’m not very good at hiding my emotions out there and there’s no reason to. You look up at the crowd and they just seem to keep going when you look up, and you look left and you look right,” said Kuraly, who has become known a bit for his enthusiastic, jumping celebrations when he does actually light the lamp. “I don’t know what it is. Sometimes they fall on your stick. I try to play as hard as I can every night for it to fall my way. Tonight I’ll take it and hopefully they just keep coming.
“When your linemates are playing downhill and fore-checking F1 and F2, and then I’m the third guy there that reaps the rewards. I don’t know if you feel it coming, but you’re just in the moment and playing, and it just kind of comes to you. I was happy it was there tonight.”
Clearly the big goals now are making up for just two goals in the first 37 games of the season for Kuraly, and maybe even making up a bit for the broken nose he suffered tangling with Ottawa’s Ben Harpur in a bit of a brutal fight last month. But it’s also enhancing the NHL resume for a bottom-6 center like Kuraly that could find himself employed in the NHL for a long, long time if he can mix in solid defensive work, good energy line play and a penchant for big goals in the big moments as he’s done for the Black and Gold pretty consistently over the last couple of seasons.
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