BOSTON — Justin Florek found himself in a familiar position Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. The young Bruins winger was given a golden opportunity, and he made the most of it.
It’s not the first time he’s done so.
Florek wasn’t expected to be part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup playoff run, but with some injuries on the big club, the 23-year-old was recalled from Providence just before the postseason started. He now has two NHL playoff games to his credit, and he scored his first career postseason goal in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of their first-round series.
With the Bruins still seeking their first goal of the series, Florek saw an opportunity. The puck was rolling down the ice, and if Florek hustled, he’d get a breakaway. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard sensed that, too, so he came out of his crease and played the puck before Florek could reach it. However, Howard’s attempt to clear the puck out of harm’s way failed. He put it off Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith, and the puck bounced right to Florek, who quickly shoveled it into the empty net.
“Yeah, it was a good present there,” Florek said. “It was good to get the team going, I think that was the biggest thing, get some momentum in the building. So that was a big start for us.”
Florek’s goal led to more sustained attacking pressure in the Detroit zone, which yielded two power plays shortly thereafter. Just three minutes after Florek’s goal, Reilly Smith added a power-play goal to give Boston a two-goal lead just halfway through the opening period.
“I think it was great for him,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “It was also great for the team, I think, to give us that early lead and really get that confidence going, that energy that we were looking for. That was a big goal for us, so it was great to see him stay on it and react well and quick enough so that it ended up being a good goal for us.”
Florek, a Michigan native, is being rewarded for his solid play. He has been inserted on the third line, where he’s skating in place of the injured Chris Kelly, and saw 13:08 of ice time in Game 1 and 10:18 in Game 2. On Sunday, he earned enough of Julien’s trust to receive 2:12 of short-handed time. He played a big role in helping the Bruins kill off all four Red Wings power plays.
Florek was one of eight Bruins who made their NHL debut this season. Assuming he continues to take advantage of opportunities like he did Sunday, he could be part of Boston’s young core in the near future.