That meager Boston offense is looking so 2021, isn’t it?
Led by two goals each from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, along with Matt Grzelyck’s career-best five-point supermarket sweep, the Bruins bum-rushed the Capitals, 7-3, Monday night at the Capital One Arena, improving to 5-1-0 in the new calendar year.
After falling into an early 2-0 hole, the Bruins roared back with a season-best six consecutive goals and ran off with their largest overall goal haul of the season.
Amid the flurry, no one was hotter than the 28-year-old Grzelcyk, who in 319 prior regular-season and playoff games never recorded more than two points. In the end, Grzelcyk’s five-spot was the largest total by a Boston backliner since Ray Bourque put up a fiver, also against the Caps, on Jan. 2, 1994.
The big arena in downtown D.C., some 450 miles south of Grzelcyk’s Charlestown neighborhood, suddenly delivered numbers that he hadn’t seen since his street hockey days around the cornah from Bunker Hill Monument.
“As it’s happening, you just kind of shake your head,” said Grzelcyk, whose night included a promotion as backline QB on the No. 1 power play unit. “I was just laughing during the game, because I felt good about my game most of the year, and points have been a little hard to come by. That’s something I don’t really worry about, but at the same time, my job is to add in offensively.”
The dry spells can be frustrating, noted Grzelcyk. A night factoring in five of the club’s seven goals erased some of that.
“You just kind of laugh,” he said. “I mean, everything just sort of fell into place. It was nothing I did in particular.”
Craig Smith and Erik Haula were the other goal scorers for the Bruins (19-11-2), who have six more wins than losses for the first time this season. Linus Ullmark, making his second straight start in net, stopped 27 of 30 shots and improved to 11-5-0.
The Bruins have outscored the opposition, 28-15, in their six games since returning from their late-December COVID/holiday break.
Taylor Hall and Anton Blidh each finished with two assists, and both Pastrnak and Marchand added a helper to their two goals.
The week-plus offensive burst must be traced back, in part, to coach Bruce Cassidy swapping his top two right wingers after the holiday break — Pastrnak to the Hall-Haula combination, and Smith to the Marchand-Patrice Bergeron line.
Hall, 7-15—22 for the season, has picked up a point in every game since the holiday break, with two goals and six assists, and looking like a much more confident, relaxed player.
“He’s a pretty explosive player. He finds the ice, can finish plays, and pass as well as he shoots,” Cassidy said. “A good combination right now. You just have to make sure you have a guy in the middle [Haula] that’s going to play a good 200-foot game for those guys, take care of the other details.”
The Bruins began their six-goal feeding frenzy with a pair of power-play strikes late in the first to pull even at 2-2, and then rattled off another four in a row in the opening 13:09 of the second en route to a comfy lead. It was the first time since a Nov. 26, 2019, win over the Habs that the Bruins rattled home six in a row.
By the 40-minute mark, the Bruins were in charge, 6-3, crafted around Pastrnak’s two goals and Grzelcyk’s growing bonanza.
Two nights after riding a 2-0 first-period lead to an easy win over Tampa, the Bruins had to chase that deficit. Ex-UMass standout Conor Sheary connected for Washington’s first (3:02) and second (12:32), each time cashing in on gifts from the Bruins.
But Boston pulled even in the closing moments of the first, connecting on power-play strikes by Pastrnak and Marchand only 40 seconds apart.
Pastrnak, who broke out of a protracted slump with the two goals in the first Saturday night, cut the lead to 2-1 with the Bruins skating 5-on-3. Marchand, taking advantage of the extra room to operate, slid over the dish and Pastrnak hammered it home with a half-slapper for his 12th of the season at 18:34.
Cassidy made two key revisions on both power-play strikes, rolling out Grzelcyk as the lone point man and fellow BU Terrier Charlie Coyle to work the net front.
Marchand, who just minutes earlier was raked across the nose and torn open by Nic Dowd — 4 minutes for high sticking — connected at 5-on-4. He used Coyle as the top-of-the-paint screen as he wristed home the equalizer at 19:14. Slid a short dish by Grzelcyk high in the zone, the Li’l Ball o’Hate closed to the top rim of the right-wing circle and beat rookie tender Zach Fucale with a sizzling snapper.
The offensive tsunami grew stronger and faster in the second, beginning with Grzelcyk’s goal at 2:51, followed by Smith and Pastrnak strikes that came only 61 seconds apart for the 5-2 lead. All three were at even strength.
It was Smith’s goal at 7:53 that ended the night for Fucale, torched on four of 16 shots. Peter Laviolette, the former AHL Providence coach, hooked his rookie and brought in Vitek Vanecek, who quickly gave up Pastrnak’s second of the night — the first shot against the Caps reliever.
“Tonight,” said Hall, “pucks seemed to get to the net at the right time. It’s fun playing that way.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.