When the Bruins started play on Tuesday, they were one of three teams without a double-digit scorer, along with the Coyotes and the Sabres, both teams closer to the basement than respectability. It was strange company for the Bruins.
By the end of the game — ah, sweet relief — the Bruins had exited that trio, courtesy of two goals from Brad Marchand, including the winner. The two goals from Marchand, along with two from Loui Eriksson, gave the Bruins a much-needed 5-3 win over the Predators on Tuesday night at the TD Garden.
That sent them into the three-day Christmas break having added two more points to their season tally. That was crucial.
“I think it was good to see glimpses of how we know we can play and we know it’s still in here,” Marchand said. “I thought we had a really good first couple periods. We didn’t have the best third, but we were able to still come out with the win, and that’s what we need.”
Part of what made the Bruins offense finally effective was that they were getting production from more than one line, seeing chances from the David Krejci line and the Patrice Bergeron line and the Carl Soderberg line.
That was especially true of the Bergeron line, with Bergeron helping drive the offense that allowed Marchand to nab his ninth and 10th goals of the season. As Marchand put it, on finally getting to double digits, “Better late than never.”
“We always talk about Brad when he shoots pucks, he’s aggressive on the puck and strong on it, he’s a good player,” coach Claude Julien said. “Tonight was another one of those nights where he seemed to feel it. His first goal, I don’t think too many goaltenders would have stopped that. It was a quick release, quick, hard shot. He scored an important goal for us – it’s important to get that early lead.”
Marchand got his first at 2:01 of the first period, on a sweet little give-and-go with Bergeron after a takeaway. He got his second at 10:51 of the second period, when a point shot from Kevan Miller caromed off Bergeron and onto the stick of Marchand. Both goals were key.
“He plays straight line and thinks attack when it’s time to attack and thinks defense when it’s time to play defense,” Tuukka Rask said of Marchand. “He’s a really effective player. Showed it today. A lot of the times when he gets so confident that he starts making little plays and moves and stuff like that, they end up costing us. Hopefully he keeps it going.”
In between, the Bruins had allowed the Predators to keep pace in the third, with a Colin Wilson goal (7:35) and a Calle Jarnkrok goal (11:31) sandwiched around a Krejci power-play goal (9:43). It was the Jarnkrok goal that still rankled Tuukka Rask after the game.
“No, I saw it. It was just a weak goal,” Rask said. “Weak, weak goal, but luckily it didn’t cost us today.
“I always want to play a perfect game, but there’s been times when I’ve played really good and we’ve lost, 2-1, 3-2, and stuff like that. Today I wasn’t at my best, but guys bailed me out and played a heck of a game.”
It didn’t cost them because Eriksson — who would later score an empty-netter — got his first of the game at 5:53 of the second off a nice pass from Matt Bartkowski across the net front. That was followed by the second Marchand goal to give the Bruins a two-goal cushion heading into the third period.
But, like all things the Bruins have done this season, it wasn’t going to be easy.
Once the Bruins had gone up by those two goals, they weren’t able to capitalize on a four-minute power play after James Neal was awarded slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 2:02 of the third. They had chances, but nothing went in.
Then the Predators scored, just after the power play ended, with a Taylor Beck goal at 6:48 of the period that cut the lead to one. Nashville was, in the words of coach Peter Laviolette, “a little bit more desperate.”
So the Bruins allowed the Predators back in the game. It’s not what they used to do, especially not last season when they were the best third-period team in hockey.
“We kind of stopped playing and they brought their game to us,” Krejci said. “In the past we kind of showed a killer instinct and we haven’t showed it much this year.”
For the moment, the Bruins earned the two points they wanted and needed and, with two straight (difficult) wins, they head into the holiday break having earned their days off.
“It means that we can relax and have a nice couple days,” Krejci said. “But if we want to be in the race for the playoffs, we have to put some wins together. Lots of teams can win one game and then they lose, or two games and they lose one. Somehow we have to find a way to put some wins together and that’s how we’re going to catch the other teams.”
But, for now, they rest.