The Boston Bruins kicked off their six-game road trip with a doozy Thursday night, knocking off the Winnipeg Jets in a game that featured eight goals, three fights, 75 shots on net and two Winnipeg goaltenders.
Patrice Bergeron led the way with two goals, Brett Connolly added a career-high three assists, and Tuukka Rask stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced as the Bruins pulled away in the third period to win 6-2.
The victory came at the perfect time for Boston, which bounced back in the best possible way from the embarrassing 9-2 loss it suffered Tuesday at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Bergeron potted his second goal of the night to give the Bruins a commanding 5-2 lead with less than 13 minutes remaining in the third period.
On top of his two tallies, which gave him 21 for the season, Bergeron also finished with a game-high nine shots on goal and one one fighting major — his first in more than two years. He logged just 14:25 of ice time in the win, with coach Claude Julien limiting his shifts following his second-period fight with ex-Bruins teammate Blake Wheeler.
Jimmy Hayes added an empty-netter to seal the deal for the B’s.
MIXING IT UP
The Bruins trotted out some updated line combinations, moving Matt Beleskey up to the second line and Loui Eriksson down to the third. Tyler Randell, who scored his fifth goal of the season Tuesday night, also remained in the lineup for a second consecutive game, and Zac Rinaldo joined him on the fourth line, replacing healthy scratch Landon Ferraro.
A LEAD, BUT NOT FOR LONG
The one Bruins line that remained unaltered helped Boston open the scoring just 1:38 into the first period. Patrice Bergeron did the honors, with linemates Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly providing the assists.
That 1-0 lead stood for less than two minutes, however, as a defensive breakdown freed up Jets center Bryan Little for a wide-open goal. Despite their early deficit, Winnipeg dominated possession in the opening minutes, tallying 13 of the first 16 shots on goal.
Boston eventually found its stride, however, and Eriksson scored a beautiful goal at the 16:34 mark of the first to put Boston back ahead.
Alas, that advantage would not hold up, either. Max Talbot was called for holding 41 seconds after Eriksson’s goal, and Nikolaj Ehlers scored 15 seconds into the ensuing power play to tie the game at 2-2.
Marchand capped his excellent first period with a breakaway goal that sent Boston into intermission with a 3-2 lead.
The Bruins winger has been simply unstoppable of late, scoring 11 goals in his last 11 games. He leads all Bruins goal-scorers with 26 this season, just two shy of his career high.
Connolly and defenseman Zdeno Chara assisted on the goal, giving the former his first multi-point game of the season.
After Connor Hellebuyck surrendered three goals in the first period, the Jets made a goaltending change, replacing the former UMass Lowell great with former Bruin Michael Hutchinson. It took quite a while for Hutchinson to see any action, however, as the Bruins went without a shot on goal for the first 11-plus minutes of the second period.
It then was Winnipeg’s turn to go cold in the offensive end, as the Jets went without a shot on goal from the 9:23 mark of the second until the 6:50 mark of the third. That stretch included another Bruins goal, as David Pastrnak snuck one past Hutchinson just 35 seconds into the final frame.
Boston outshot Winnipeg 14-6 in the third period.
FIGHT NIGHT WINNIPEG
Rinaldo, who was a healthy scratch against the Kings, dropped the gloves with Jets tough guy Chris Thorburn during the first period.
The bout reestablished Rinaldo as the Bruins’ leader in fighting majors. He has six this season, one more than Randell.
Beleskey also put on the foil in the first. He squared off against Jets defenseman Tyler Myers, who stands a full eight inches taller than him.
That Rinaldo and Beleskey chose to settle disagreements with their fists was no shock. What was surprising was that Bergeron decided to do so, as well.
The Bruins All-Star notched his first fight since 2013 — and just the fourth of his career — when he threw down with Wheeler.
Wheeler is no brawler, either, having entered Thursday with just six career fights to his credit.
Game 2 of the Bruins’ six-game trip is set for Saturday afternoon in Minnesota, where the B’s will visit the reeling Wild.
Thumbnail photo via John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP