The streak lives. Causeway Street remains unsoiled. And if there are any remaining doubters that the Bruins are a Stanley Cup contender, they surely have changed their minds.
A pair of David Pastrnak goals and another two from Trent Frederic had the Bruins slipping another ‘W’ into their pocket, 5-1, over last year’s champions, the Avalanche.
Boston (20-3-0) has won 14 in a row at TD Garden, extending the best home start in the 104-year history of the league.
Two third-period goals in 10 seconds — Frederic hammering a one-timer past Pavel Francouz, and Jake DeBrusk scoring his 100th career goal — made it a laugher.
It was the first two-goal game for Frederic, who became the latest Bruin to have his best game of the season.
“I do think we have a killer instinct in us that has grown throughout the year,” coach Jim Montgomery said. “You’ve seen us do it in a lot of different ways. This team, you can tell a lot of guys have won a lot in this league. They know how to win.”
On Saturday, the Avalanche (13-8-1) weren’t the team that romped to a 16-4 record in last year’s playoffs. They were missing several regulars, including forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin and defensemen Bowen Byram and Josh Manson. Temporary top-line left wing Artturi Lehkonen left Saturday’s game with an injury. Montgomery put them in the “very depleted” category.
But they remain the defending Stanley Cup champions. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen are three of the 15 best players on the planet. Their power play arrived at No. 1 in the league.
The Bruins were in full command of this game. They outshot the visitors, 15-5, in the second period, and 12-6 in the third, on their way to a 40-25 shots edge.”
The Bruins’ best players came to play, as they have during this remarkable season-opening run. Several best-on-best shifts, Boston’s top line and top defense pair against Colorado’s, were won handily by the buzzsaw Bruins. The anticipated third-period push from the Avalanche was little more than a flurry.
When the big dogs were on the ice, “I thought we controlled the play,” said Montgomery, spotlighting the top pair of Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy, which limited MacKinnon to four shot attempts and Rantanen and Makar one each at 5 on 5.
Brad Marchand had his best game of the season. In the first 14 minutes, he drew two penalties, had three Grade-A scoring chances and set up Pastrnak for a power-play goal by snapping a puck through a seam he created with his feet. Marchand still feels he won’t be at his best until perhaps January or February.
“I felt better tonight,” said Marchand, who has 19 points (7-12—19) in 15 games since his Oct. 27 return from double hip surgery. He added that he might shorten his shifts a bit more to stay fresher.
But his killer instinct was on display.
“You have to be dialed if you play against that team, that line,” Marchand said. “They can break out, take over a game, in one shift.”
Pastrnak buried his 15th goal of the season at 13:49 of the first, off that Marchand saucer feed, from his regular place of business (the left circle). And Pastrnak, stripped by Devon Toews on an early would-be breakaway feed from David Krejci, made sure that didn’t happen again. At 4:48 of the second, he made it 3-0 after Krejci sent him in alone from just past the red line.
He undressed Francouz before roofing it. That brought Pastrnak — who remains on an expiring contract — to 16 goals and 34 points in 23 games.
“I was fighting the puck a little bit,” Pastrnak said. “Ice was a little tough today … I was going to shoot the whole time, and at the last second I pulled away from it and tried to deke.”
In between Pastrnak’s strikes, Frederic finished a goal Montgomery loved to see.
The Bruins coach preaches puck possession, smart puck movement and encourages his defensemen to jump into the play. Before Frederic made it 2-0 at 18:51 of the first. Charlie Coyle snatched a Colorado clearing attempt, dumped it at his feet while holding off a defender, and slipped it to McAvoy. The defenseman played give-and-go with Pavel Zacha, swatting away MacKinnon’s defensive stick on his way to the net. Frederic cleaned up the loose puck.
To score his fourth of the season, Frederic fulfilled his assignment: bother the Avalanche to help keep the puck in, occupy Toews atop the crease while McAvoy rolled to the net, and finish the scoring chance. He had his feet moving all night.
“We were talking about how much his confidence has grown, and it popped today offensively with his first two-goal game,” Montgomery said of Frederic (5-4—9), now well on his way to surpassing last season’s career high 8-10—18. “When he moves his feet, he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
The home crowd also went wild for Nick Foligno, who didn’t like a first-period hit from behind by defenseman Andreas Englund. A.J. Greer stepped to the Avalanche defenseman, but Foligno handled it himself. Foligno and Englund traded shots, and Foligno scored the takedown.
Linus Ullmark (24 saves) was rock-solid throughout, and excellent in the first. He had 19 saves through 40 minutes, cracking only when Andrew Cogliano snapped a loose puck upstairs 6:32 into the third. McAvoy and Foligno collided in the slot, giving the veteran forward time and space.
Other than that, more or less all Bruins.
“We haven’t gone through a ton of adversity yet, and we will,” Marchand said. “Things have gone well so far. There will be a time maybe we’ll let a game slip or we don’t get that big goal.”
Just not yet. Not in this building.