ST. LOUIS - Brad Marchand had gone six games without a goal. Last night at the Scottrade Center, he was determined to make that stretch just a memory.
Marchand scored the first and last goals to lead the Bruins to a much-needed 4-2 win over the Blues, one of the premier home teams in the league.
The Bruins snapped a two-game losing streak and handed the Blues their first regulation loss at home in more than two months.
“Especially when your team’s not winning the way we can, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to score,’’ Marchand said. “It had been a few games. Longest slump I’ve had in a while. It was nice to get the monkey off the back.’’
It wasn’t just that Marchand scored goals 20 and 21 of his season. It was the timing of the strikes.
The Bruins are one of the best clubs in the league when they score first. Entering last night, they had won almost 90 percent of the games in which they’d been first to get on the scoreboard. But in their last 20 games, they had fallen behind in 13, and lost 11.
So when Marchand gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 2:29 of the first, it was a most welcome sight. Kevin Shattenkirk started the breakout in the St. Louis zone, and as he approached the blue line, Marchand picked the former Boston University defenseman’s pocket, then snapped a riser over Brian Elliott to put his club ahead.
“Some scoring early in the game was helpful to our overall team confidence,’’ said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
In the third period, Marchand beat Elliott once more. The Bruins were nursing a 3-2 lead, and the Blues were pushing hard for the equalizer. Because of how much pressure the Blues were applying, the Bruins knew they might have a chance the other way.
After Patrice Bergeron won a battle against Chris Stewart, Tyler Seguin tracked down the puck along the right boards in the defensive zone. At the same time, Marchand pulled away, hoping his linemate would find him. Seguin sent a crisp pass up the ice to Marchand, and the left wing slipped behind the defense. Marchand faked forehand on Elliott, then tucked a backhander between the goalie’s five-hole at 9:14, giving the Bruins a 4-2 lead.
“We beat a pretty good team here tonight,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “It was our focus and determination. The commitment was definitely there.’’
As crucial as Marchand’s goals turned out to be, it was a Chris Kelly strike late in the first that gave the Bruins the life they needed.
At 6:19 of the first, Milan Lucic gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead when he tipped home a Joe Corvo blast. But less than a minute later, the hard-charging Blues kicked off their rally. Stewart found the rebound of a Jason Arnott blast and beat Thomas (30 saves) at 7:17, cutting Boston’s lead in half.
Then at 12:15, with the Blues creating havoc once more in front, Ryan Reaves scored to tie the game at 2-2.
“I didn’t feel bad from the start,’’ Thomas said. “But when you get screens and fluky goals - they’re giving up chances, too - it looks like one of those back-and-forth nights that you’ve got to win 5-4.’’
The Blues, battering the Bruins on the forecheck, would have inflicted mental damage had the game been tied following the first 20 minutes. But some good work by Kelly, Lucic, and Johnny Boychuk helped give the Bruins the late counterpunch they required.
David Perron rimmed the puck around the boards in the St. Louis zone. Before it could cross the blue line, Boychuk cut it off at the right point and put a shot on goal that bounced off Lucic. As Kelly drove to the net, Lucic slipped a pass under the stick of Barret Jackman to his center’s blade. With 40 seconds remaining in the first, Kelly tucked a shot past Elliott (15 saves) to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead and some good feeling heading into the first intermission.
“When you look at the time of that goal, it was late in the period. Those are always big goals,’’ Julien said. “I thought that was a big boost for us.’’
In the third, the Bruins played with 10 forwards, as youngsters Carter Camper and Jordan Caron didn’t skate a shift. Julien mixed his lines to keep his forwards fresh, and the Bruins responded by allowing only eight shots.
Finally, they were rewarded.
“It’s real important,’’ Lucic said of the win. “We knew the challenge coming in, knowing how good of a team they’ve been all year long, how good of a team they’ve been at home. That posed a big challenge for us. Especially of late, we haven’t really been rolling. But a big thing was getting that first goal. It almost felt like it lightened the mood and gave us some confidence.’’