BOSTON — After Rick Nash’s Bruins debut Sunday and Tommy Wingels’ first game with Boston on Tuesday, it was time for two more new faces to suit up for the Black and Gold.
Both Nick Holden and Brian Gionta made their Bruins debut Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. Holden was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers last Tuesday, while Gionta signed with the B’s as a free agent Sunday shortly after serving as captain for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
While it often takes players some time to get accustomed to a new team, Holden and Gionta both made an immediate impact in the Bruins’ 8-4 win over the two-time Stanley Cup champions. Holden started in place of Matt Grzelcyk on Boston’s third defensive pairing, recording an assist in 20:25 minutes of ice time. After the game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy explained how much Holden can bring to the team.
“He was good,” Cassidy said. “He made plays. He doesn’t overhandle pucks. I think what I like about him, what I was told about him, is what he was. He moved the puck in a hurry to a good spot, he gets into his gaps. He gets in the way of players without being this ferocious type of player, but he’s hard enough that he’s not easy to play against. He’ll help us on the power play, he’s not afraid to shoot, 5-on-5 he’s a big body. He’s a different player than Grzcylek is, but it’s good to have options.”
Gionta certainly exceeded expectations in his first NHL game since April 9. The 39-year-old served as the right wing on the Bruins’ third line and dished out two assists, one of which on the third goal of David Krejci’s hat trick. Cassidy wasn’t all too shocked by Gionta’s performance, but he noted that some might be surprised by what the 5-foot-7 forward can bring to the power play.
“As advertised, quick, still has good legs,” Cassidy said. “Great in front of the net. Sometimes you think of a net-front presence on the power play you think of the Rick Nashes, the (David) Backes, the (Patric) Hornqvists — the bigger bodies. I’m a believer that some of the smaller bodies like Marchy (Brad Marchand), Zach Parise can do a good job in there as well recovering pucks, tipping pucks. I think it’s very important for your net-front guys to recover pucks and be quick.”
Solid depth is critical for any team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, and if the past few games are any indication, the Bruins have it in spades.
Here are some other notes from Bruins-Penguins:
— Krejci’s hat trick was the sixth of his career and the third for the Bruins this season.
— Nash scored Boston’s third goal of the contest, marking his second goal in as many games.
— Twelve of the Bruins’ 18 skaters logged points against the Penguins.
— Penguins starting goalie Casey DeSmith only recorded 5:27 minutes of ice time and was pulled after Nash’s goal.
— Boston converted on three of its five power-play opportunities.