Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

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Bruins get their special teams explosion against the Penguins

BOSTON – The Bruins had been in a self-described special teams “funk” as of late, so Thursday night’s special teams’ explosion was a welcome development indeed.

The Bruins broke a six-game power play drought (0-for-18 over that span) with three PP strikes and at the time ended up holding the high-powered Penguins power play unit without a score in Boston’s 8-4 win over the Penguins at TD Garden. The fact that they did both of those things without an integral piece in Patrice Bergeron was impressive, but it was all about executing and getting back to a simple, hard-working mindset at both ends of the ice.

All three power play goals arrived because players were crashing the net or cutting hard to the paint with our without the puck, and that’s something that had been missing a bit over the last month as the Bruins went 2-for-32 on the man advantage. They managed to outdo that in one night’s work with the three special teams’ goals against the Penguins.

“We executed better. We’ve talked about that. That’s a start, right? You make good passes and you win pucks, you’re playing in the O-zone, and you’re forcing the team to defend. So I think that’s the start of it. We made some great heads-up plays like, the [Nick] Holden play to Krejci – that’s not one you practice; that’s a broken play where you win a puck – Jake DeBrusk does a great job winning a puck,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about it, I think this morning, one of the specifics was second effort. That’s a second-effort play, winning the puck, and then you allow your skill to take over, and he makes a great play.

“So that’s an example of what we had asked the players to do a little better job at, and I thought they did. We had a few passes that didn’t connect that were maybe forced, but I think that’s always going to happen when you have – what did we have, five [power plays]? But, for the most part, I thought we made better decisions with it, as well. So good for them; they got rewarded. We have plenty of skill in there. They can score, and I thought we had more urgency tonight.”

The first score was Rick Nash camped out in front of the net, waiting and ready to redirect a Torey Krug point pass through Casey DeSmith with a simple tap-in attempt. Then David Krejci kicked it into PP overdrive in the second period when Nick Holden found the Czech center cutting to the net wide open, and for his third goal of the night he was able to guide home a shot set up by a tipped Brian Gionta pass as the 5-foot-7 forward was camped out in front.

“Over the last three games we’ve talked about the drought and keeping it simple,” said Nash. “I think that when any power play struggles, you have to simplify things. Put pucks to the net and you have to get bodies to the net, and it’ll start to go in.”

That’s exactly what happened on Thursday night as the dam finally broke on the power play for the Black and Gold, and the PK managed to shut out the Penguins after allowing six power play goals in the previous five games. Now it’s a matter of the Bruins keeping it up at a time of year when special teams can be a massive difference-maker for hockey clubs looking for any edge they can find.  


Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

Bruins-Flames Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand spark B's after sluggish start

GOLD STAR: Patrice Bergeron helped the Bruins get back almost by himself after they fell behind by a 2-0 score to the Calgary Flames. Bergeron scored a pair of goals in the first six minutes of the game to withstand the three-goal barrage from the Flames, and now has goals in five consecutive games and seven in his last seven games during a red-hot offensive period.

Bergeron finished with two goals, the plus-1 rating, three shots on net and three takeaways in 15:59 of ice time. He won 13-of-19 face-offs in a dominant showing in pretty much every facet of the game. In other words, it was just another great effort from No. 37 in another win for the Bruins.

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BLACK EYE: No shots, no hits and no anything from Sean Monahan in 19:31 of ice time for the Flames in a nothing performance from one of Calgary’s best players. It was Monahan that failed to tie up  Bergeron on his second goal of the night after a David Pastrnak shot bounced off the end boards with a carom right to Bergeron in front.

Really, it was a team-wide no-show for the Flames after scoring the first three goals in the opening seven minutes of the first period. After that they managed just a handful of shots in the second period before a better third, but they never got another goal past Jaroslav Halak after Brad Marchand's go-ahead goal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins clearly weren’t ready to go at the start of the game as they allowed a goal 20 seconds into the game and then fell behind by two goals less than three minutes into the first period. Perhaps Halak could have made a better attempt to stop the shot on Calgary’s second goal, but it was still a scorched one-timer on an odd-man rush. The goals allowed were much more about lax defense by the Bruins even if Halak allowed three goals on six shots faced in the first period.

After that, though, the B’s defense tightened up and went into shutdown mode after allowing one more goal in the first period. Once they got through that rough opening few minutes, the Flames offense was held down and the soft Calgary defense was exposed by the Bruins en route to the one-goal win for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand ended up with the game-winner when he scored the lone goal in the second period after redirecting a Brandon Carlo point shot. Marchand did a nice job of stepping into traffic to redirect the outside shot, but it was also a byproduct of Calgary failing to lift his stick once he got ideal position in front of the net.

Marchand finished with a goal, two points and a plus-1 rating in 18:36 of ice time, had five shots on net and had a hit and a takeaway in a very active game for the entire Perfection Line. Give Marchand and Bergeron credit for refusing to allow the Bruins to lose even after they dropped behind by a couple of goals just minutes into a wild, crazy game out in Calgary.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 – the number of teams to win a game in NHL history after allowing three goals in the first four minutes of the game. The B’s became that seventh team when they pulled out the 4-3 win in Calgary.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m a physical player, so those games are comfortable. I’m just trying to help the team win. It was really physical. It was a good game to be a part of for sure.” –Jeremy Lauzon on the night where he got in his first NHL fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Watch Jeremy Lauzon drop gloves with Matthew Tkachuk for first NHL fight

Jeremy Lauzon officially has his first NHL fight under his belt.

The 22-year-old tussled with Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk during the second period of Friday night's game to mark the first bout of his NHL career. Tkachuk certainly gave Lauzon a challenge, but the Boston Bruins defenseman held his own.

Watch below:

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Not a bad first scrap for the B's youngster.

While Tkachuk may have won the fight, Lauzon and the Bruins were the winners in the end as they defeated the Flames 4-3 in a thriller. Boston now has won 11 of its last 12 games.