Brad Marchand’s thread-the-needle pass sailed clean past Patrice Bergeron posted up in the high slot, past the sticks of three Ottawa skaters, and hit a sprinting Jake DeBrusk directly on the sweet spot of his stick.
All it took was two touches around Ottawa goaltender Mads Sogaard to give the Bruins the go-ahead goal late in the first period.
Just how coach Jim Montgomery drew it up.
With 6 points in his last three games, Marchand seems to be finding his stride. The 34-year-old winger told reporters March 8 he was dissatisfied with his results on the ice, but a little less than two weeks later, he has a hot hand and is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I think [Marchand’s] found his groove here, and he’s making a lot of plays again,” Montgomery said after the Bruins’ 2-1 win Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Marchand missed eight of the first nine games of the season recovering from double hip surgery, but despite lost time, he entered Tuesday’s matchup with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists). His 62nd came on the silky assist on DeBrusk’s go-ahead goal.
Marchand told reporters in early March he “thought [he’d] feel better” at that point in the season than he did following the double hip arthroscopy and labral repair he underwent May 27.
Eight games and 8 points later, Marchand appears to be making progress, but the winger said he still has a way to go.
“I wouldn’t say I am yet,” Marchand said, noting he felt he had not yet hit his stride. “But you definitely feel better about your game when you’re getting bounces.”
Marchand has registered multi-point nights in two of his last three games.
“I’m expected to produce, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that,” he said. “I think that the better conditioned I feel and … the more I move my feet, I think the more things open up.”
Marchand has leaned on linemates DeBrusk and Bergeron for brushes of confidence, helping ease his recovery despite physical limitations.
“As a line, especially when we’re all moving and supporting each other, we seem to play well,” Marchand said. “So I think kind of when one or two guys are feeling good, we all kind of feed off that.”
Bergeron cleared a lane for Marchand’s pass, drawing his defender toward the net to leave an opening on the back door. His role in the play was quieter, and his movement slower than DeBrusk’s, but it set the stage for the highlight-reel goal — and assist.
“[Bergeron] kills plays and puts out fires everywhere so Marchy and JD can go and make plays in the offensive zone,” Montgomery said. “That’s what he does every shift. Every shift he puts out fires.”
Marchand’s assist drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd, as well as adoration from his teammates on the ice.
“That pass — that’s world class,” said defenseman Hampus Lindholm, credited with the second assist on DeBrusk’s goal. “It’s hard to defend. They did a great job, and that’s a beautiful goal.”
DeBrusk shared a similar sentiment.
“It was all-world,” said the sixth-year veteran. “I was happy I finished it for him. There were a couple of passes that he gave me where I could have had a couple more.”
DeBrusk has scored in three straight games. He missed 15 games in January and February with a fractured fibula, and now he’s heating up alongside Marchand. The key to his success?
“Great passes,” DeBrusk said.
“There was a little stretch there where I think it was just kind of the reality of me coming back from injury, being too hard myself, and also at the same time limiting what I do well,” he said.
“When your confidence is high, it just seems like you can make plays, and it seems like the pucks just find the back of the net,” Marchand said. “We kind of feel that right now.”