ST. PAUL — Back on March 8, Reilly Smith scored the game-winner in the shootout against the Lightning. It was a strike that Smith and the Bruins hoped might give him a push, get him out of a goal-less streak that had reached 10 games. It didn’t. Smith needed five more games before he finally put one in.
Even that score didn’t put Smith on the right path. Heading into Tuesday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Wild, Smith had scored just once in his last 26 games.
Make that twice in 27 games as Smith scored Boston’s first goal, beating Ilya Bryzgalov on the power play at 3:00 of the first period, finally getting his 20th goal of the season. Smith joined Jarome Iginla (30), Patrice Bergeron (29), Milan Lucic (24), and Brad Marchand (23) as Bruins to reach the 20-goal mark.
“Just kind of a lucky bounce on the power play,” Smith said. “Hopefully I don’t just score against the Wild from now on. That’ll be a pretty boring rest of my career.”
Coach Claude Julien sees positive signs.
“I feel he’s coming around,” Julien said. “I’ve felt it now for a little over a week, and he seems to be turning the corner.”
He’s not the only one who sees it.
“I think he’s been getting back to playing his game more than just the last game [against the Flyers], the last few games,” Bergeron said of Smith. “It’s one of those things that . . . younger guys go through during a year, that they have I guess ups and downs and I think he’s handled it really well and he’s better better.
“He’s been helping me get those goals as well. I think he’s been great for us.”
When Bergeron was younger, he said he had help maintaining his focus from veterans such as Martin Lapointe and Glen Murray when things weren’t going his way.
“[Lapointe] was really showing me how things were going and it wasn’t always perfect and it wasn’t always going on all cylinders, you have to make sure you go through some ups and downs and you have to stay focused, stay with it,” Bergeron.
They helped keep him in the right frame of mind. And he’s been happy to pass that advice along to Smith, especially when the goals weren’t coming and the frustration was mounting.
“He’s been a great surprise for me this year,” Bergeron said before the game. “I thought he’s been terrific all year, he’s been helping me, he’s been helping our line. I think he’s got the character also to be a great player and the mindset and the will. I’m not worried about it at all.
“I’m there if he needs anything – if he needs a little pat on the back. I’m always trying to make him feel comfortable.”
Bergeron and Smith have been part of a line that has each player get hot at different times. First it was Smith, then Brad Marchand took over, and now Bergeron, who extended his career-high point streak to 12 with a first period goal Tuesday.
As Bergeron joked, “We just talked about rotating.”
He added, “It’s just the way it goes sometimes, you know. But obviously when you are scoring your linemates are usually doing lots of the work to get that puck to you, to create some openings, to give you the puck. They’ve been playing well. I don’t have an answer for why it’s been one after another. But it’s been great to play with these guys. I feel like we’ve been establishing chemistry as it went on.”
Back to the future
It’s been three years since Dougie Hamilton stepped into the Xcel Energy Center, where the Bruins drafted the defenseman end ninth overall in 2011.
“It’s a little bit different with ice out there and everything, but I remember taking some pictures in this room,” Hamilton said in the visitors’ dressing room. “It’s just a cool memory to be back here.”
Asked how he’s changed since then, Hamilton quipped, “Cuter. The black eye makes me cuter.”
Hamilton sustained the first black eye of his career — along with five stitches — when he took an unpenalized high stick from Phil Kessel Thursday against the Maple Leafs.
“I think I’ve obviously changed a lot, matured a lot,” Hamilton said. “Hockey-wise I think I’ve gotten a lot better as a player and everything, so I think just trying to keep improving on everything, as a person, as a player. I think I’m pretty happy with the changes I’ve made in three years.”
Part of that has been his growing comfort playing with Zdeno Chara and his growing comfort playing against the opponents’ best players.
“I think it’s obviously an honor to be playing with him and I think it’s just more comfortable with him on the ice,” Hamilton said.
“Just more chemistry I guess now and I’m used to playing against the other team’s top line. I think it’s just for me trying to do my best for him and be accountable and things like that. So far it’s worked out pretty good, I think.”
Neither Jarome Iginla nor Kevan Miller took part in the Bruins’ morning skate. They both took a quick turn around the ice before the skate, but were ruled out against the Wild. Iginla (lower body) and Miller (undisclosed) sat out Saturday’s game against the Flyers, and neither practiced on Monday. Iginla also missed Wednesday’s game in Detroit but played Thursday against the Maple Leafs. Asked if the Iginla situation has affected his rest plan for his forwards, J ulien said, “Maybe a little bit but not that much. We’ll still get to do what we want to do here, so just a matter of putting that puzzle together with four games left and go with it.” . . . Chris Kelly appeared to suffer an injury in the third, playing just one shift in the period. Julien told NESN that the injury was “nothing specific,” and said the team was just being cautious. Julien added that Kelly could have played in the third.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.