When Ryan Spooner was called up to the Bruins on Thursday, coach Claude Julien had a decision to make. Spooner wasn’t brought up to “have popcorn and hot dogs up in the stands,” as Julien put it. He was going to play. That meant one of his forwards was going to sit — likely Jordan Caron or Carl Soderberg.
Soderberg got the call. Caron took a seat.
And, after one period, that wasn’t looking like the best decision. A Soderberg pass had led to the turnover that turned into the Ducks’ first goal, scored by Devante Smith-Pelly just 1:52 into the game. The Swede had been mostly invisible on the ice. Now he was visible, but not in a good way.
That changed at 12:45 of the second, when Spooner sent a pass up ice to Chris Kelly, who tapped it over to Soderberg. The winger went in alone on Jonas Hiller and sneaked the puck under the goalie for his first career NHL goal.
He stood there and raised his arms to the sky. He looked skyward, too.
So what does he call that celebration?
“Maybe relief,” he said.
“You always feel pressure on this level,” Soderberg added, after the Bruins had taken a 3-2 shootout win at TD Garden. “You have to play good and there’s a lot of players who want your spot. It’s always hard pressure on us.”
That wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“It’s funny what a goal can do to your confidence and the morale and how you’re feeling,” Kelly said. “You could see just sitting beside him on the bench it looked like the weight was lifted off his shoulders.
“I know he’s been forcing and pushing hard. Sometimes they come easier than others, but I thought he did a great job defensively a few shifts before that, saving a goal, and then got rewarded.”
Thursday marked Soderberg’s most active game for the Bruins, a game in which he found a bit of chemistry with his new linemates, with Spooner at center and Kelly on the wing. He missed the first two weeks of the season with an ankle injury, putting a dent in what had been a good training camp.
And once he returned to the lineup, there were only brief — very brief — flashes of what the Bruins had hoped to get from him. He was mostly a nonfactor. He had just one shot on goal in his first five games, coming against the Devils last weekend. Every other player on the team had more shots than he did — including defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who had played just three games.
On Thursday, Soderberg had two shots, two shot attempts blocked, and a missed shot. He added two hits and a blocked shot, by far the best he’s looked on the scoresheet this season.
Plus there was that goal.
“It means a lot to me,” Soderberg said. “I’ve been playing in Europe for 10 years at the highest level there, but it’s still not the NHL. I came here at 28 years old, so I wanted to see if I could play in the NHL. I’m pretty glad I scored.”
So were the Bruins, who had struggled mightily early on, with just one shot in the first 20 minutes.
“We have been playing not the best hockey we want lately, not our line, not the team here,” Soderberg said. “So I’m really glad we came out better today and had a win.”
Soderberg was rewarded, too, with a chance in the shootout. Spooner, Jarome Iginla, and Soderberg were given the three chances in the shootout, and while Soderberg was unsuccessful on his — “It wasn’t the best shootout,” he acknowledged — he said he was pleased to get the chance, especially after the way the game had started for him.
“It’s always hard to make a pass like that in the beginning and they score, but I’ve been playing hockey for a long time so you know that happens,” he said. “You have to keep going.”
And that mind-set gave him a full-circle night, one that had started in disappointing fashion but ended with a sense that better things could be in store.
“That’s what you want to see,” Julien said. “Everybody knows he made a mistake by throwing it in the middle [on that first-period goal], but he goes back and ties the game up. So it kind of wipes the slate pretty clean in my mind, and you go from there.”