PHILADELPHIA — David Pastrnak is 6 feet tall and 167 pounds. He is 18 years old. The twiggy rookie cannot help but be at risk in the defensive zone, where the men are big and their tempers are short, especially brutes wearing orange.
“I’m sure it can work,” David Krejci, Pastrnak’s center the last two games, said of playing with the rookie. “But we have lots of work to get done. We’ve got to figure out how to play in the offensive zone. He’s really smart. But we have to keep it within his strengths, not weaknesses. We’ve got to keep the puck on the tape, not just throw it away and hope that someone’s going to be there. We have to play smart.”
As long as Pastrnak puts the puck in the net at the other end, the Bruins may be willing to live with his shortcomings.
Pastrnak scored his first two NHL goals Saturday to lead the Bruins to a 3-1 win over the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. Pastrnak netted his first strike on the power play at 11:23 of the first. He followed it up in the third period after playing give-and-go with Krejci.
“First NHL goal, it’s even better that we won,” said Pastrnak. “It feels great now.”
Pastrnak has played in seven NHL games. He can appear in two more before burning the first year of his entry-level contract.
“Krech is one of those guys who’s going to find guys that are open,” said coach Claude Julien. “Pastrnak is a guy who knows where to go. It’s nice to see. He skates well. This guy puts Ds on their heels with his speed. At the same time, he’s really shown us that he’s coming around with his game without the puck.”
The Bruins stretched their winning streak to three games. They had not won three straight in almost two months, when they ticked off victories over Carolina, St. Louis, and Columbus.
The Bruins weren’t as thorough against the Flyers as they were in their 3-0 blanking of the Devils Thursday night. But they got good goaltending from Tuukka Rask (24 saves), strong work from their penalty kill (5 for 5 before a late Claude Giroux man-up goal), and timely scoring from their most recent first-round pick.
In the first, Pastrnak opened the scoring by being open in front. With Jakub Voracek in the box for interference, the Bruins snapped the puck around on the power play until it landed on Zdeno Chara’s stick down low. Chara peeled around the net and fed a backhand pass out front for Torey Krug.
Ray Emery, who had relieved Steve Mason at 7:07 of the first period after the starter suffered a lower-body injury, stopped Krug’s one-timer. But Pastrnak entered the low slot and backhanded the puck past Emery before Jeff Schultz could sweep away the rebound. As Pastrnak celebrated his goal, Milan Lucic picked the puck out of the net.
“It gets the monkey off his back and gets some confidence,” Krejci said of Pastrnak’s first career goal. “He knows he can score a goal in the NHL. That’s big. It took me over 40 games.”
Pastrnak got some help to score his second goal. Adam McQuaid started the play by picking off a pass and sending a crisp clear through the neutral zone for Pastrnak. Because of McQuaid’s quick pass, the Bruins went on a three-on-two rush.
Pastrnak dropped a pass for Krejci, then found an opening in the slot. Krejci, as he usually does, drew traffic his way. Matt Read, who was backchecking on the play, pursued Krejci at the right circle. Schultz dropped to one knee, anticipating Krejci’s shot on goal. All this attention on Krejci left Pastrnak open in front.
Krejci threaded the puck around the Flyers and onto Pastrnak’s stick. Before Emery could slide over, Pastrnak ripped the puck into the net at 4:58 of the third to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
“He’s a smart, skilled player, right? He made some good moves out there today,” Krejci said. “I think the biggest thing for him is to work on his weaknesses. He’s only 18. He knows he has to get stronger and win some battles.”
The Flyers could have ripped into Boston’s 2-0 lead after McQuaid was called for holding at 8:56 of the third. But less than a minute later, Chris Kelly scored a shorthanded goal to make it a 3-0 game. Kelly and Loui Eriksson took off on an odd-man rush. After taking Eriksson’s feed, Kelly whipped a shot from the right side over Emery at 9:51.
“Strong goaltending. Overall, a pretty decent game,” said Julien. “Those points are big for us. I thought we played well enough that we deserved to win today.”