BOSTON — Throughout their November surge, the Bruins have been the masters of the quick strike.
They've rattled opponents with goals coming in quick succession, and used the momentum from those rallies to put games out of reach.
On Saturday, it was visiting Winnipeg that struck quickly midway through the opening period. Evander Kane opened the scoring at 9:31 of the first, and Dustin Byfuglien made it 2-0 just 39 seconds later.
Suddenly finding themselves on the wrong end of two quick goals, the Bruins showed some needed resiliency. Coach Claude Julien called timeout immediately after Byfuglien's goal to settle down his troops, and the Bruins slowly clawed back into the game and eventually took over late for a 4-2 victory.
"I think it was just about slowing the game down a little bit," Julien said of the timeout. "Moreso I just felt that we weren't skating very well at that point. We were getting the puck and then we were looking instead of moving and our neutral-zone speed just wasn't there at all. That wasn't the way we needed to play. We wanted to have a good first period and it wasn't happening, so I just felt that at that time we needed to refocus and slow things down a bit."
The Bruins got one goal back before the end of the first when Zdeno Chara struck on the power play, then Chris Kelly took over in the second. He scored a shorthanded goal to tie it, then added another at even strength to give Boston its first lead of the game.
"We just didn't want to give up," Bruins forward Daniel Paille said. "I think being down two, especially in the first, there is a lot of game left to come back. For us it is just about playing a little bit better than what we did. Once we got that first goal in there we realized we could come back, especially in the first. We were able to cut it in half before the end of the first period and capitalized more in the second and third."
That comeback all stemmed from that timeout, as Julien gauged the right point to rein in his team and get it back to playing the style that has made them almost unbeatable this month.
"I just thought we needed to get back to doing the things that make us good," Julien said. "We weren't moving our feet. Every time we passed it to somebody along the boards he was standing still, looking to make another play instead of skating with it. Because we weren't getting that speed we kept turning pucks over."
That started to change later in the first, then the Bruins really took control in the second. By that point, the teams had reversed positions, and it was the Jets who were coughing up the puck at inopportune times and committing costly penalties.
"I think it was a combination of penalties and we kind of got a little rattled there and you saw we had a few 2-on-1s against in a row, one after another," Winnipeg forward Blake Wheeler said. "And penalty after penalty and you start doing that and it takes you a while to get your bearings back, and by that time there were a couple goals against. So on top of that your power play wasn't very good either. They score a shorthanded goal and that can't happen. So all that wrapped into one certainly turns the momentum against us and it takes a while to regain it."
The Jets did their best to regain the advantage, peppering Tim Thomas with 42 shots. But the Bruins netminder was up to the task, with a little help from his defensemen with Adam McQuaid leaping to swat away one potential goal and Johnny Boychuk blocking another in the closing seconds.
"I felt better as the game went on," Thomas said. "I was a little on my heels after that second goal. It was a knuckle puck and I usually have those. I just missed it, so I was a little on my heels. I was like, 'Oh no, it might be one of those nights.' Every time I went to play the puck it took a funny bounce, that is what happened the first half of the game. I was just trying to battle through it. I have been in those situations before and I just tried to battle through it and battle out of it."
The rest of the Bruins battled through the fatigue of playing their third game in the last four days, recovering from their early lethargy to post a key victory to reclaim the top spot in the Northeast Division.
"You're not going to always have great legs," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "You are not always going to feel great, but the bottom line, if you don't have your legs you have to move the puck and that's what we were focusing on, moving the puck. And making simple plays and putting a lot of pressure on them, especially in the offensive zone."
That was a focus hammered home in a crucial timeout called by Julien, who once again showed his ability to read what his team needs most.
"Obviously good coaches know when to call timeout or make certain decisions, and that was, that's just one of many [Julien has made]," Kelly said. "I think we just kind of had to get our feet moving a little bit. We looked like we were standing around a little bit, kind of watching, and just little things. Just get back to playing our game."
And the Bruins' game has got them back among the top echelon of the NHL, with only Pittsburgh having more points than Boston's 29 despite the Bruins' October struggles.