BOSTON — The Bruins found out this week that they would be without one of their best all-around players for the foreseeable future. An upper body suffered during Sunday night’s game had rendered David Krejci unavailable, relegating one half of Boston’s dynamic 1-2 center punch to injured reserve.
How did the Bruins respond? Only by putting on their most electric offensive performance of 2015 in their final game of the calendar year.
Four days before their scheduled Winter Classic tilt on the now-ice-covered football field of the New England Patriots, the Bruins hung a touchdown on the Ottawa Senators, setting a new season high for goals in a 7-3 whitewashing Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Rather than regress with Krejci sidelined, Boston’s offense exploded, with 13 of the 18 active skaters contributing at least one point in the win.
Top-line center Patrice Bergeron scored two goals, pushing him past Krejci for the team lead in points. Second-line winger Matt Beleskey, who has excelled at generating scoring chances this season but struggled in finishing them off, also potted two in his first multi-goal effort since 2010.
And Jimmy Hayes, who’d managed just one goal in his previous 21 games and was bumped down to the fourth line Tuesday, scored with 0.2 seconds remaining and the game already decided to cap his first NHL hat trick.
That hat trick-clinching goal, which followed a wild line brawl that resulted in six misconducts and 82 penalty minutes, sent an already fired-up Garden crowd into hysterics. It marked the Bruins’ highest-single game goal total since a Feb. 8, 2014, win over, coincidentally, the Senators.
“(Hayes’ linemates) were trying everything they could to give Jimmy his hat trick there,” head coach Claude Julien said. “I liked the way that they were thinking in a 6-3 game and that they are trying to help their teammate out.”
“I was jacked,” a smiling Max Talbot, who was on the ice for all three Hayes goals, told reporters. “I feel bad now because I celebrated too hard at the end, but we called it at the faceoff. I was definitely looking for him, so I was glad that he got the hat trick. You usually don’t celebrate that hard at the end of a game like this but I was feeling emotional in that situation.”
After the three-game losing streak the Bruins endured last week, it’s hard to imagine a better response. Boston never trailed in the contest and finished it with a dominant third period, scoring four of the final five goals to put the game well out of reach.
Also, in an odd twist, the Bruins’ Krejci-less power-play unit had one of its best showings yet, producing a season-high four goals to match its total from the previous 10 games.
“It was important for us to step up,” Bergeron said. “We’re missing Krech; he’s a big part of our team, but that’s when you’ve got to be at your best. We were in a little bit of a losing streak where we’ve played some good hockey but we didn’t get the results, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. So, I thought (Tuesday) was a perfect example of how we need to play and how we have to respond.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris