The Bruins played their first game without Krejci, who suffered a concussion on Saturday against St. Louis, in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. It was a return to the city where Marc Savard suffered an even more devastating concussion as a result of Matt Cooke's cheap shot last March.
Savard also remains sidelined, but the short-handed Bruins still found a way to break out for a season-high seven goals, including five in a dramatic third-period rally, to beat the Penguins 7-4.
"I think the guys really came together and tried to do it by committee," said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. "Everyone chipped in, every line chipped in, and you're going to need that when you're missing a guy like Krech."
Thornton was one of the more unlikely offensive heroes, as he scored the game-winner at 12:40 of the third, picking the near top corner as he barreled in on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand for his third goal of the year.
Thornton also helped wake the Bruins from their early slumber when he took on Pittsburgh heavyweight Eric Godard 6:33 into the first period. The Bruins responded with two goals over the next 10 minutes after the Penguins had struck for a quick goal 1:05 into play with Thornton's and linemates Greg Campbell and Marchand on the ice.
"We really weren't happy with that first shift," said Thornton, who was named the game's No. 1 Star. "We got caught out there for a bit and it ended up in the back of our net. We try to take pride in being able to play against the best players in the league as a line and we definitely weren't happy with the way it started. But I think Marchy and Soupy and myself did a great job of battling back and trying to get those goals back."
Thornton was just one of many Bruins who stepped up to help fill the void left by Krejci's absence. Patrice Bergeron moved up to Krejci's spot on the top line and chipped in a pair of assists, while Blake Wheeler moved over to center for the first time as a pro and tallied a goal. In all, seven different players scored goals for the Bruins and 15 skaters each had at least one point.
"That's what you're going to need when you're missing a player like David Krejci," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He's such a good playmaker and such a good player for us. Everybody is going to have to chip in and tonight everybody did, especially in the third period."
The third period will be remembered as one for the ages. The first 40 minutes left a little to be desired though, as the Bruins fell behind 4-2 heading into the second intermission.
"In the first two periods I don't think we were playing that well at all," said Julien. "We were getting outmuscled along the boards and we were making a lot of mistakes. We were not getting the puck in deep and those turnovers ending up costing us. But I thought in the third period we got back to what we do best. We got pucks in deep, we went after them and forechecked them well enough that we created some turnovers and with those turnovers we had some great opportunities. I thought it was a great comeback by our team."
Mark Recchi agreed. On the day Julien revealed for the first time that Recchi had underwent knee surgery this offseason, the veteran forward scored his first goal of the year and set up Wheeler's insurance strike in the closing minutes with a great hit and pass out from behind the net.
"It was just getting back to Bruins hockey," said Recchi of the reason for the turnaround in the third. "Getting pucks deep, getting pucks to the net. We just weren't very good. They wanted it more than us in the first two periods and it showed. But the third period we came out and played the way we're capable of playing and we capitalized on all our chances.
"It wasn't very good to start," added Recchi. "But the end response was great. Blake stepped in and did a great job at center. You can't replace a guy like David Krejci, but you have to suck it as a team, suck it up as players and guys have to step up and everybody has to improve their games."
The Bruins did that Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, ending their first losing streak of the season after dropping back-to-back games last weekend. Now they make a quick turnaround and look to start a winning streak when they host Montreal at the Garden on Thursday.
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