BOSTON — Jimmy Hayes did what the Bruins want him to do Wednesday night, and he was rewarded with his first goal in over a month.
The 6-foot-6 forward was able to tip a Ryan Spooner feed past Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, helping propel the Bruins to a 3-0 win at TD Garden and breaking a 15-game goal drought that dated to Nov. 5.
“It’s happened to me before,” said Hayes, who’d managed only one point during his prolonged slump. “But (in order to) find a way out of it, that’s what you’ve got to do. You have to go to the net and get a greasy one and make sure you can keep going and just find a way out of it, you know?”
Bruins coach Claude Julien, who made Hayes a healthy scratch for two games earlier this month, agreed.
“Jimmy’s going to have success by going to the net like he did tonight,” Julien said. “He’s really good at either tipping pucks or finding loose pucks. He’s a big man — he has to play that game. We don’t expect him to be carrying the puck up and down the ice, but in those tight areas he can be a good player. (Against Pittsburgh), that’s what he tried to do and had some success doing it.”
Hayes, who also assisted on Max Talbot’s first-period goal, has 14 points this season but just five since Nov. 1.
Some additional notes from Wednesday’s game:
— Adam McQuaid briefly left the game in the first period after taking a shot off the face. The defenseman suffered a gash on his chin that required close to a dozen stitches, but he otherwise was unharmed.
“Luckily, I’ve got a beard,” he joked to reporters. “It keeps it well hidden.”
— The game was the first of a home-and-home between the Bruins and Penguins, who will play again Friday night in Pittsburgh. The sentiment in the Boston locker room seemed to be that another performance like Wednesday’s will not be enough to earn the B’s a sweep.
“I don’t think we can be extra satisfied with this effort from our team,” Talbot said. “Obviously, Tuukka (Rask) was amazing (Wednesday). In the second period, we’re definitely not satisfied, we played a little bit better in the third. But at the same time, I don’t think we had our skating legs tonight. They controlled most of the game, so we definitely need a better effort on Friday for us to win a game on the road.”
Rask stopped all 34 shots he faced and was particularly strong in the second period, during which the Penguins outshot their hosts 18-4. Taking four points from the two-game set would be huge for Boston, which vaulted into second place in the Atlantic Division after Wednesday’s win.
— The Penguins have yet to win a game under new head coach Mike Sullivan, who was hired Saturday to replace the ousted Mike Johnston.
The Pittsburgh job is Sullivan’s first as an NHL head coach since he led the Bruins from 2003 to 2006. He reflected before the game on his long coaching journey.
“When I decided to get into this profession — the coaching side of the business — after I retired, I knew it was a hard business,” the 47-year-old Marshfield, Mass., native said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. By nature of the position, you’re always going to be second-guessed, and that’s the nature of coaching.
“I love coaching. I love being around the rink. I love interacting with the guys. I love the fire, the battle. So I knew what I signed up for when I got into it. It’s been a long road, I guess, but I’ve had some great experiences along the way in all the different capacities that I’ve coached. …
“It’s not an easy business. But as I said to our players when I first met with these guys, pro sports is hard. It’s a struggle. I think part of having success or finding your way through it is you’ve got to be able to embrace it a little bit, so that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
— UMass product Conor Sheary made his NHL debut for the Penguins and played well, logging 16:41 of ice time and earning a late-game promotion to Pittsburgh’s second line.
“I thought he was terrific,” Sullivan told reporters. “I thought he was on the puck, he was quick, he forced turnovers, he was skating. I thought he brought us some juice.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins right wing Jimmy Hayes