fb-pixel Skip to main content

Bruins win out west, hold off inferior Arizona

Charlie McAvoy (center) celebrates his go-ahead goal in the second period Friday night in Glendale, Ariz., against the Coyotes.Christian Petersen/Getty

Smack dab in the middle of the NHL season, Linus Ullmark Friday night submitted his sharpest performance since arriving from Buffalo as a free agent, turning aside 30 shots and backing the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

The win improved the Bruins record to 25-13-3 (.646) through 41 games, a playoff-certain pace that projects to a possible 106 points over the course of a full 82-game season.

Erik Haula and Charlie McAvoy had the goals, the latter snapping a 1-1 deadlock with 6:19 remaining in the second period, and from there Ullmark snuffed out the final 15 Desert Dog shots — including two or three sparkling stops over the final 2:30 when the Coyotes yanked goalie Scott Wedgewood in a frenetic attempt to tie.


Ullmark is now 8-0-1 over his last nine starts, his only loss a 4-3 overtime trimming Wednesday in Denver in which the Bruins booted away a 3-1 lead in the third. The Swedish stopper has been solid, and the hot streak now looks particularly timely because his partner, veteran Tuukka Rask, has been sidelined at least temporarily with what the club says is a minor lower-body injury.

Post-game, coach Bruce Cassidy did not rule out the possibility that Rask could take the net in the trip finale Sunday night in Dallas. But he also did not dismiss the possibility that Jeremy Swayman could be summoned from AHL Providence — impending bomb cyclone blizzard notwithstanding — and the promising rookie could be the one to face the Stars.

“We’ll see how he is [Saturday], we’re going to practice,” Cassidy said, referring to Rask, who has made four starts since his return from off-sesaon hip surgery. “We’ll see about his availability. If he doesn’t feel he can be available Sunday or Tuesday [home vs. Seattle], we’d obviously have to look at Swayman.”


Taxi squad goalie Troy Grosenick, with only 338 minutes of NHL play on his resume, backed up Ullmark in Arizona. If Rask has to stay on the sidelines, no doubt the Bruins will want Swayman back with the varsity, be it to start or back up Ullmark.

McAvoy’s goal provided the 2-1 lead, which stood up into the third period — the second time in as many nights the Bruins carried the lead into the final period of regulation.

Patrice Bergeron, a near-perfect 15-for-17 on faceoffs for the night, began the scoring play with a win at the dot. Brad Marchand then dished up to McAvoy around the right point and the ex-BU defenseman snapped home his seventh of the season for the tiebreaker.

McAvoy, who had a pair of assists in Wednesday’s loss in Denver, equaled his career-high for goal scoring with the 2-1 strike. It also lifted his powerplay point total this season to 15 points.

Likewise, the powerplay goal extended the Bruins season-high streak to eight games with at least one goal on the advantage. They often struggled in man-up situations through the first three months of the season, but it has proven a confidence-booster the last three weeks. They have gone 10-for-25 (40 percent) in their eight consecutive games with a PPG.

The two sides traded goals in the first, with the Bruins finally breaking their five-game streak of giving up the first goal of the night.


Haula struck for the go-ahead strike, his fifth goal this season, with 12:30 gone in the first after the Coyotes failed to get the puck out of the zone. The slip-up set up David Pastrnak in the left wing circle, and he cut to the net and dished off in the low slot for Haula to bang in the 1-0 lead.

“I’ve got an opportunity to play with two elite players,” Haula said, reflecting on a month in which he has produced four goals and 11 points on a Zip Line with Taylor Hall and Pastrnak. “It’s a good challenge. I want to do really well, obviously, and it’s been fun — two great players and I have to bring what I can bring, help them out, and it’s been nice to have a little bit of success.”

The assist stretched Pastrnak’s point-scoring streak to eight games. It also left him with a 12-6-18 line in the 15 games thus far in January.

Nick Schmaltz, the ex-Blackhawks first-round pick, was back 5:34 with the equalizer, set up nicely by Shane Gostisbehere, the former Flyer backliner from Union College. Gostisbehere faked a shot on the right side, dished left, and Schmaltz zipped it into the net before Ullmark could fully get in position.

Less than five minutes after the Bruins moved to the 2-1 lead on McAvoy’s goal, it appeared they would have a perfect opportunity to build on the lead when a double-minor (4:00) was initially called on Schmaltz for high-sticking Anton Blidh. It first looked like the right call, particularly with Blidh’s blood dripping on the ice.


But not so fast. The 4:00 call allowed the officiating crew to take a closer look at the video. And upon forensic inspection, yes, Blidh had been the victim of a high stick, but the unintended perpetrator was none other No. 73 McAvoy.

In other words, no penalty on Schmaltz, and play returned to 5-on-5.

Ullmark, now 15-5-1 in his 21 starts, needed a little repair work with less than two minutes to go, skating to the bench with a bloody nose that needed a quick patch.

“Ended up all blood on my sweater,” Ullmark said, not knowing exactly what happened. “Had to fix it right away.”

And the view from behind the bench?

“Bloody nose … I don’t know if he caught a stick, puck ... a lot of bodies around the net, so it could be a skate, or anything,” Cassidy said. “Something hit him in the beak, so he was leaking a little bit. We got that fixed up. He’s as handsome as ever.”

Yep, 15 wins in 21 starts is easy on the eyes, along with a path to 106 points.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.