NASHVILLE — It had taken a while for the kids to show up, at least on the stat sheet. The Bruins, beset by injuries and suspensions, brought up seemingly half of their AHL club in the month of December. But while those players had tried their best to impress the organization, tried to do the little things, they hadn’t added much in the way of points.
That changed Monday night, as the Bruins picked up a 6-2 win over the Predators heading into the three-day Christmas break on the strength of three assists from Ryan Spooner and a goal from Matt Fraser.
“It really helps us out a lot,” said coach Claude Julien. “At the same time, you could see that coming from other games. They were starting to get chances. They’re spending a lot of [offensive] zone time and creating some stuff, so I guess you felt as a coach it was just a matter of time before they could get some goals there.”
And they did that Monday night.
The Bruins got production from some of the usual suspects, too — a goal and two assists for both Carl Soderberg and Reilly Smith and two goals from Jarome Iginla. And three of the goals came on the power play, as the Bruins were 3 for 3 with the man advantage.
But it was the prospects who demonstrated what they might bring to the Bruins now and in the future.
“There’s so much depth in this organization,” Smith said. “A lot of people might have looked past us in the last few games, having so many guys [out] who are regularly on the roster, but guys like Spoons and [Fraser], Carl, have done a great job being able to put the puck in the back of the net when they got the opportunity.”
The Bruins came out quickly, scoring three times in the first period, then allowed the Predators to get back into it, the lead narrowing to just one goal at 3:25 of the third. But the Bruins came alive at that point, scoring insurance goals 49 seconds apart to ice the win.
Iginla got the first of those insurance tallies, from David Krejci, at 5:01 of the third 17 seconds into a five-on-three power play. Soderberg added another at 5:50, with the primary assist going to Spooner, also on the man-advantage. Brad Marchand got the final tally, at 15:54.
“That’s kind of been the motto, I think, for these guys all year,” Fraser said. “Any hockey team, really. You get a couple-goal lead on a team, you want to really clamp down and take the life out of them. Teams are so good in this league that they can score on any little mistake, and I think it’s our job to be ready for their push.”
The Bruins opened the scoring with a goal by Iginla, on a tip of a Zdeno Chara shot just 1:16 into the game.
Then came the first goal for Fraser as a member of the Bruins, the second career goal for the former Star, Fraser lifting the puck under the crossbar at 5:59 of the first.
It wasn’t the best moment for Carter Hutton, and the Predators goaltender got an early hook, with Marek Mazanec replacing him.
“It’s just nice to contribute,” Fraser said. “I’ve kind of been looking for that first one for a while now. I felt like I’ve been playing well and getting the chances. It’s just a matter of it going in.”
The Bruins added on at 10:47, with Soderberg and Smith replicating a play that has become a signature.
On the power play, Soderberg got the puck on the goal line and sent it across to his left to Smith, who put it home. It was the fourth time they’ve scored on that play, and second time in as many games. The goal tied Smith with Milan Lucic for tops on the team, with 12.
Asked how often they’ll continue to score on that play, Smith said, “Hopefully a lot more. But teams are probably going to start cheating on it, cutting away the pass. But until they do, we’ll probably still stick to it.”
The win took the Bruins into the break 3 points ahead of the Lightning for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and 3 points behind Pittsburgh for the top spot in the East.
“It’s always more fun when you’re winning, but I was pretty happy the way we finished off these last four games,” said Tuukka Rask, who had 32 saves. “Played some good hockey, and got a good road win here to finish it off. It’s a good break for us now.”