When Brad Marchand was dropped from the second line in Friday’s practice to skate with the fourth-liners, Bruins coach Claude Julien said it wasn’t about pointing fingers.
“It was about kind of giving the guy another look at practice,’’ Julien said.
The coach didn’t want to make it seem like he was sending a message.
“At the same time,’’ he said, “you know your players.’’
Entering Game 5 against the Capitals Saturday, four of the Bruins’ top five scorers had made absolutely no offensive impact, Marchand (28 goals, 27 assists in the regular season) among the missing.
Even if it wasn’t a demotion, it felt like one.
But when the Bruins took the ice Saturday, Marchand was skating with Patrice Bergeron and Rich Peverley on the second line.
When Marchand mashed the puck past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby in the second period - the second of two goals in 28 seconds for the Bruins - it felt as if someone finally had lit the pilot light on the team’s attack.
After a 4-3 loss to the Capitals, it was a positive to take away for a team trailing in the series, 3-2.
If the practice shakeup was shocking to one of the players the Bruins count on for scoring, so be it.
“I knew that Brad would certainly respond and it was important for him to be put on the line that he deserves to be on and he responded well,’’ Julien said. “I thought he played really hard and he played well for us.’’
In 24 shifts, Marchand scored his first of the series, put five shots on net, and blocked two.
“I knew I had to be better,’’ Marchand said. “And I tried to prepare that way that I had to be better out there and I felt better today.
“I felt a little better but I have to make sure I carry that into [Sunday’s] game, too.’’
Marchand was around the net more often and was the agitator the Bruins are used to seeing.
“We seemed to have a little more energy at times out there,’’ Marchand said. “Even after we got down a couple, we battled back. I thought we took it to them after that. We had a pretty solid game. Definitely got guys flowing a little more.’’
In a series in which goals have been hard to come by, the Bruins 1-2 punched their way out of a jam at the end of the second period. Fourteen of their 37 shots came in the period, and after Washington jumped to a two-goal lead, there was an urgency for the Bruins to start turning shots into goals.
“We just knew that we had to keep going,’’ Marchand said. “We had a lot of good opportunities and it was only a matter of time. After we got that first one, it seemed to really spark us.’’
The loss stung, but the Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit.
“When we’re down 2-0 and all of a sudden two minutes and something later it’s 2-2, it gave us momentum in the game,’’ said Johnny Boychuk, who scored at 8:47 of the third period to tie the game at 3. “It gave us some momentum. We took it to them after that and it’s just unfortunate that they scored that last goal.’’
Even though they’ve dominated in shots (185 to 141), the Bruins have led for just 14 minutes and 51 seconds of a series in which all the games have been decided by one goal.
“There’s definitely been games throughout the year that it’s been like that, but you have to keep going,’’ Marchand said. “You can’t get down on yourself. You have to continue to push forward.’’
Julien sent the message and Marchand responded, though it has to echo throughout the locker room.
“We have no choice,’’ Marchand said. “It’s do or die for us. So we have to make sure we leave it all out there to try to force a Game 7. But in their rink, we’ve got to be prepared for the hardest game on the ice.’’Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.