WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Sharp with their sticks and focused on the details that add up to wins, the Bruins got one back on the road.
A 3-0 win over the Jets Thursday night stopped a two-game skid for the league’s best team, making them 1-2-0 on a trip that continues Saturday in Minnesota and Sunday in Buffalo. Their extensive refocusing efforts paid off. They were the Bruins you remember seeing, if a little less dazzling with the puck.
A large share of the credit goes to the resurgent Jeremy Swayman, who came in with seven goals against in losing his last two. Tracking the puck brilliantly and rarely off his mark, he stopped 36 shots to put up his first shutout since Feb. 16 in Nashville, and helped the Bruins kill five penalties and 2:45 of empty-net time.
“Challenge accepted,” Swayman said of the team-wide reset of the previous 48 hours. “We know the regular season isn’t done yet. It’s a time to look each other in the eye and understand there’s more to do. We haven’t proven anything yet.”
The Bruins (51-11-5), looking weary, had lost three of four amid their historic clinching of a playoff spot. The Jets (38-28-3) entered Thursday with a four-point playoff cushion. The Predators, right behind them, have three games in hand.
It seemed like a must-win for Winnipeg. According to Charlie McAvoy, it was a must-win for the Bruins.
“We know we’re a great team,” the defenseman said. “What makes us a great team is when we play with details. It’s really about being simple. It’s not turning the puck over in the neutral zone. It’s making smart plays, high-percentage plays, and then our skill takes over.”
Trent Frederic and Pavel Zacha each scored in the Bruins’ first four shots, and Boston led, 2-0, after two periods. Tomas Nosek sealed it with an empty-netter.
Swayman wasn’t the only one making saves. McAvoy and Tyler Bertuzzi saved would-be goals with their sticks. The 5-for-5 penalty kill also was quick with pokes and swipes.
The Bruins kept charging in the third before a desperate push from the Jets, who landed 10 of the game’s final 14 shots.
“I really, really liked the third period,” coach Jim Montgomery said. “We were a little too loose defensively in the first 40, and Sway had to be terrific. And he was terrific. It might have been his best game of the year.”
The same back-to-back goal-scorers that gave the Bruins a lead Tuesday in Chicago — before they lost by three — performed the trick again at Canada Life Centre in the first 13:22. That, plus the excellent work of Swayman, helped them overcome their mistakes.
The Bruins had to kill all five penalties in the first 40 minutes, with Swayman (24 saves through two) making 10 stops on the PK. And while the Bruins didn’t have the power play working (0 for 3), they did well at five on five.
Fifty seconds into the night, the Bruins hit on a familiar-looking play. The Jets doubled up on Charlie Coyle behind the net, and he slipped the puck to Bertuzzi. The winger, showing more of his soft hands and vision, quickly fed Frederic in the slot as he did Coyle in his Bruins debut against the Rangers two weeks before.
Swayman made 13 stops in the first, and some of the Alaskan’s best work came at the end of an otherwise solid penalty kill. Legs pointing toward opposite continents, Swayman shut down Kyle Connor and was in position to stop Mark Scheifele on the follow, but McAvoy deflected it away.
After Swayman’s 10-bell stop, the Bruins started ringing the iron. Garnet Hathaway’s backhand bid on the rush floated off the crossbar, and after the Jets turned it over, Zacha made it 2-0 with a heavy snapshot off the bar and in.
He nearly had a second 13 minutes into the middle period. Connor Hellebuyck challenged Zacha on a loose-puck race and, despite being way out of his net, deflected the puck away with his stick.
An unfortunate development for the Bruins, who made Connor Clifton a healthy scratch: They lost Derek Forbort (right leg) to a shot block late in the second period. Forbort struggled to finish his shift, didn’t return for the third, and left the building wearing a walking boot. Montgomery all but ruled him out for the rest of the trip.
Clifton will be ready in Minnesota. The rest of the team should be, too.