BOSTON — Special teams can often be the deciding factor when two Stanley Cup contenders square off, and that was the case Tuesday night in the Bruins’ 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
Boston won this battle and showed great improvement on the power play, where it scored twice in three opportunities.
Brad Marchand opened the scoring in the first period with his first goal of the season. He sniped the top right corner on Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.
“I think it’s getting traffic, and we weren’t afraid to shoot when it’s time to shoot,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said when asked about the success of his team’s power play.
“At first, the first power play we had, they really pressured us a lot early on. I thought we did a great job of moving the puck around so that they would settle their box down. Once they did we started making some good plays and opening up some space for some great shots. I thought (Marchand’s) goal was indicative of that.”
After the Sharks evened the score with a power-play goal by Logan Couture later in that period, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug scored his second goal of the 2014-15 campaign at 6:54 of the second period. The 23-year-old blueliner unleashed a powerful shot from the point that beat Niemi, hit the post and went into the net.
Boston now ranks 15th in the NHL with a 20 percent success rate (5-for-25) on the power play. The B’s started the season just 1-for-10 on the power play, but the return of first-line center David Krejci to the lineup, among other factors, have resulted in the team scoring four power-play goals in the last five games.
“Last game in Buffalo, I thought the puck movement was good, but no results out of it,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “But here today, obviously, two power play goals on the first two opportunities. I think it goes down to winning the battles, to keep the puck in the O-zone, and then guys having the focus of putting the puck on the net. Two great shots, both went in, and it was great to finally get some results on the power play.”
Despite the success with the man advantage, the most impressive part of Boston’s win from a special teams perspective was its 4-minute penalty kill to end the third period. Patrice Bergeron took a double-minor penalty for high-sticking Sharks D-man Justin Braun with 4:09 remaining in regulation. Without their best penalty killing forward, the B’s prevented the ultra-talented Sharks power play from scoring the equalizer. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played the entire penalty kill and picked up an assist on Krejci’s empty-net short-handed goal that sealed the win.
“Well, in that situation it’s desperation mode,” Bruins center Gregory Campbell said of the team’s final penalty kill. “You’re really doing anything you can. I mean, they snap around pretty well and a great power play. They’re running a 30, 33 percent on the road, so with a couple good saves by Tuukka [Rask], but it’s really just playing within the system that we have, and Bergy kills enough penalties for us so it’s important for us to do that for him.”
— Logan Couture arguably was San Jose’s best player Tuesday night. He scored two goals and tallied a team-high eight shots in 18:30 of ice time.
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— Seth Griffith scored his first career NHL goal in the third period, which tied the score 3-3 and turned the momentum in Boston’s favor. His celebration was awesome, too.
“It was just my first one so I had to do something a little crazy I guess,” Griffith said of his post-goal celebration.
— The Bruins’ fourth line is starting to take shape now that injuries aren’t as much of a factor as they were earlier in the season. The Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Simon Gagne line had a strong game, and even had a Corsi-for percentage over 50 (including a combined shot differential of plus-6 at even strength). Campbell scored his first goal of the season at 10:42 of the third period, and it proved to be the game winner.
“For us to be in those situations we’ve got to be a responsible, reliable line, and Claude (Julien) has to trust us to put us in those situations,” Campbell said. “So with hard work comes trust, and if we’re playing our game and we’re in on the forecheck and creating chances and bringing energy to the lineup then he usually has confidence in us.”
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