BOSTON — Just two months ago, Benoit Pouliot was riding a three-game streak he wanted no part of.
After failing to score in his first eight games, the Bruins winger was a scratch for three straight. It was a humbling experience for a player taken fourth overall in the 2005 draft but was now playing in his third organization on a short-money, one-year deal worth $1.1-million after Montreal didn't tender him a qualifying offer last summer.
But heading into the Christmas break, Pouliot is a very different player riding a different kind of streak. After a highlight-reel goal Friday in Boston's 8-0 rout of the Florida Panthers, Pouliot has now scored in three straight games and has become a key cog in the Bruins offense.
"I think we anticipated he could be a good player for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's started to show that. My final assessment of him will come at the end of the year. He can go through spurts and stuff like that, but he's certainly improved the way we thought he would. He's really been a good player for us and now if he can keep that consistency going throughout the whole year he'll have been a great bargain for our hockey club."
That start to the season, which included five games spent in the press box, is fading fast, but Pouliot still clings to the memory as inspiration to stay focused on moving forward.
"It was tough, I'm not going to lie," Pouliot said. "You don't want to sit games out. Everyone kept talking to me, telling me, 'Don't worry about it, you're going to get back in there.' It's an opportunity for me not to mess it up, just get back, stay in and be a consistent guy on the team. I think right now things are going pretty well.
"When you feel good, you play good," Pouliot added. "There are times when you go through ups and downs and the downs are the toughest part. It's all mental. It's all in the head. You have to not worry about it too much, but sometimes it's hard. You always think about it and then at one point you find a way out and try to stay out of it."
Pouliot is finally winning that mental battle, and that in turn is letting his physical gifts shine through. They were on full display late in the first period when he snatched the puck in his own zone off a Chris Kelly faceoff win and raced coast to coast, cutting back to the middle around a defender, regaining control of the puck in his skates and firing it home as he was falling to make it 3-0.
"Yeah, Poo, he's sick," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "That was an unbelievable play there. I think a lot of people had written him off there and said he had no chance but he's got a lot of skill that maybe he's underestimated for and he breaks it out and that was a beautiful goal."
That goal left all of Pouliot's teammates in amazement.
"He's a talented player, he's got great range and great reach," Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. "So I think he used that there in that instance, kind of, almost pulling and dragging that puck and fooling the defenseman and having the poise to hold on to that puck. A lot of guys try that move and they're not able to stick with it and he stuck with it and the backhand was a good shot too because if you ask any goalie a lot of them, a lot of times they don't know where the backhand's going so he was able to slip it in the far side there."
It was the kind of play Julien hoped to see when the Bruins took a chance on Pouliot this summer, a gamble that is suddenly paying off in a big way.
"I think he's starting to show more and more confidence and when the confidence is there, you're able to do a little bit more," Julien said. "That was obviously a highlight goal and pretty nice to watch when you look at the replays. I was happy for him. The whole team on the bench was really happy for him. He's a good teammate and he's a good person. He's paid his dues early in the season where he was trying to fit in and now he's got himself in a position where he doesn't want to let it go."
For Pouliot, his experience in Boston has been an eye-opener after struggling to establish himself in Minnesota and Montreal.
"It's awesome, in the past I didn't really have good experiences with that stuff," Pouliot said. "And now we're winning. We lose one or two and then we get back on the streak again, which is nice, and which is what we need. Everything feels right right now."
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