Their offense uncharacteristically sleepy in the first week of the new season, the Bruins awoke from their Midwinter Night’s Nightmare Thursday night with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers that featured:
▪ Four goals in the third period, tallied by Jack Studnicka, Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie, and Brandon Carlo.
▪ Some dazzling stops by No. 1 stopper Tuukka Rask, particularly in the five-minute OT during which the Flyers outshot the Bruins, 5-0.
▪ Finally, Jake DeBrusk’s lone strike as the No. 3 hitter in the shootout session that saw Rask stone Flyers marksmen Jakub Voracek (backhand), Travis Konecny (forehand), and Claude Giroux (forehand).
Along the way in the home opener at TD Garden, the Bruins also finally struck for their first even-strength goal of the season, complements of the Studnicka goal, the first of his career, that cut the Flyers lead to 2-1 only 57 seconds into the Revere Beach rollercoaster of a third period.
The goal, which came in the club’s 12th period of regulation in this early season, was scored after a second-intermission reckoning inside the dressing room, coach Bruce Cassidy bluntly telling his troops that they were “too easy to play against” at the offensive end of the ice from the start this season.
“What was pointed out is that it’s going to happen to some of our new guys,” said Cassidy, noting how rookies Studnicka and Trent Frederic have been reluctant to shoot, a common freshman tendency. “They’re new to the league. It’s the rest of them that should know better!”
Cassidy then ticked off names, specifically Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, making clear he needed the vets to be more aggressive with their shooting mindset, more assertive overall with their attack.
“It was a little more, ‘Hey, you guy’s have got to drive the bus here,’ ” noted Cassidy, “and be leaders in that regard. So they accepted that. You know, ‘Charlie Coyle, get to the net, you’re a big body.’ He got there [for his goal] and the puck finds him.
“I think it was more a mindset that we had to snap them out of – and I guess today is when it hit home, finally.”
Ritchie and Carlo scored less that two minutes apart late in the third, temporarily handing the Bruins a 4-3 lead, what was the Black-and-Gold’s first advantage of the night after falling into a 2-0 deficit in the second period.
Carlo, with only 12 goals in his previous 300 regular-season games, has been a reluctant shooter in his four-plus seasons with the Bruins. But not on night No. 301, not with Matt Grzelcyk shuttling over a cross-slot pass from above the right circle and Carlo putting the hammer down on a blistering one-timer that beat Carter Hart.
“Great play by Grizzy,” said Carlo, noting his partner’s smooth feed to set up the shot. “It was just a clear lane at the net and I just wanted to shoot it as hard as a could. But it all starts with the forwards on the forecheck and then Grizzy making that space available to me.”
In the wake of Torey Krug, Carlo’s partner, leaving for St. Louis, it’s even more important for other members of the D corps to step up their shooting game. Carlo is being encouraged by Cassidy to deliver more in the attack zone.
“Definitely want to be more of that mindset,” said Carlo. “It’s something I have been trying to grow in my game. The coaches have done a fantastic job, pulling me aside after each game and showing me those opportunities along the blue line when I have the chance to shoot or pass or make plays. I think you’ll start to see a lot more of that from our D corps.”
Only 1:10 after Carlo fired home his first goal of the season, the Flyers drew back into a 4-4 tie when James Van Riemsdyk scored his second of the night, the big winger using his size to his advantage to muscle home a power-play strike from near the left post.
Earlier in the third, Travis Sanheim broke a 2-2 deadlock 7:13 into the third period, beating Rask with his mid-slot deflection of a Voracek shot from high in the zone. It came just over five minutes after the Bruins rallied and pulled into the tie after beginning the period in a 2-0 deficit.
After being stifled on 18 shots across the first two periods, the Bruins finally struck for their first of the night only 57 seconds into the third period when rookie Studnicka pushed home the first goal of his career.
Aided by a David Krejci feed from the left circle, Studnicka scored on a second-effort backhander to trim the Flyers’ lead to 2-1.
Only 1:10 later, Coyle pulled the Bruins even, ripping home a short-range forehander on a spin move in the slot. Newcomer Craig Smith put the initial shot on Hart, firing in from just inside the blue line, and Coyle made the deposit on the Bruins’ 25th shot of the night.
The smiling Studnicka, the puck in his locker, wasn’t sure who at home he would be sending the cherished memento. Maybe his dad. Maybe his uncle. It’s a long list, he noted, of those who helped him make it to the NHL. He already had a handful for “first pucks” back home.
“But this one,” he said, “takes the cake.”