DALLAS — By Tuesday’s third period, Claude Julien had juggled three of his four lines.
David Pastrnak, as expected of an 18-year-old, was going through a tough night. Jordan Caron played only 2:02 all game. Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell were taking shifts in place of the suspended Brad Marchand, the Bruins’ regular second-line left wing.
But there was one unit the Bruins coach was not about to touch: his third line of Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg, and Loui Eriksson was his best group.
They clicked on the team’s first goal. Soderberg and Eriksson were on the ice for the third. Coaches don’t mess with their best lines.
“They were good tonight,” Julien said after the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Stars at the American Airlines Center. “Really played well, that whole line. It was nice to see them contribute on that first goal. It was a beauty. Great play from Kells to Carl, and Carl finding Loui there in the slot.”
Eriksson will never be Tyler Seguin, the player the Bruins sent out to acquire the ex-Star. Seguin is the league’s leading goal scorer. The 22-year-old could become the NHL’s most dynamic offensive force.
But a year and a half into his Black-and-Gold career, Eriksson is playing some of his best hockey as the club’s third-line right wing.
Eriksson scored his 11th goal of the season. He played 3:49 on the power play and was on the ice for Dougie Hamilton’s third-period insurance strike. Eriksson logged 4:49 on a penalty kill that went 6 for 6. The ex-Star played 21:25, most of any Boston forward.
“We’re making plays out there and creating chances,” Eriksson said of his line. “I thought the other game before against Columbus, we had some real good chances to score goals. Today we had a couple really good chances too. We’re playing real well.”
The linemates connected on a highlight strike to tie the game at 14:17 of the second. Kelly started the play by carrying the puck over the offensive blue line. From the right circle, Kelly spotted Soderberg going wide left.
Soderberg reeled in Kelly’s pass and drew Kari Lehtonen his way. But instead of putting a bad-angle shot on goal, Soderberg whipped a behind-the-back feed to Eriksson in the slot. Jordie Benn, who was tracking Soderberg, skated out of the play. Lehtonen tried to hustle back into position. But before the goalie could cartwheel back into the crease, Eriksson slammed the puck home to make it a 1-1 game.
It was the first of three straight goals for the Bruins. With 1:33 remaining in the second, Campbell scored the winner.
Craig Cunningham flipped a long-distance shot through a Caron screen. The puck got through traffic and thudded off Lehtonen. Before the Stars could sweep the puck away, Campbell crashed the net and swatted in the rebound to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
“On that goal, we hadn’t been out there for a while,” Campbell said. “Our job is to be prepared. It’s challenging mentally, but that’s our job. We have to stay focused and be ready when the time comes. We were in that instance. Our game’s simple. On that play, you put it at the net. I was at the net.”
Campbell thought he had scored in the first after a Jamie Oleksiak turnover. But the goal was waved off after Caron was called for hooking Oleksiak, which caused the defenseman to cough up the puck.
In the third, Soderberg drew a penalty that led to Hamilton’s power-play goal. Soderberg engaged Jason Demers in a race for the puck along the wall in the offensive zone. Demers was called for elbowing Soderberg at 7:04. Thirty-seven seconds later, Soderberg helped Hamilton net his eighth goal.
Soderberg rooted into the ice in front of Lehtonen. When Hamilton took a pass from Reilly Smith and approached the top of the right circle, Lehtonen tried to see the defenseman’s release. All the Dallas goalie saw was Soderberg’s backside. Because of Soderberg’s screen, Hamilton picked the top right corner at 7:41 to give the Bruins their only power-play goal.
At the other end, Tuukka Rask (36 saves) and the penalty kill slammed the door repeatedly on Dallas’s power play. The Stars load up on their No. 1 PP unit. Clever defenseman John Klingberg works the point. Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza use their skill on the flanks. Cody Eakin mucks it up down low.
The Stars hammered the Boston net with 16 shots on the power play. Rask got some help when Seguin skimmed a one-up shot off the crossbar in the third. But Rask had his primary assistance from his penalty killers, led by Zdeno Chara (7:36 of shorthanded ice time) and Kevan Miller (6:37).
The musclebound defensemen cleared out bodies from in front. At the same time, the forwards flashed strong sticks to bust up Dallas’s cross-ice looks.
“Our penalty kill was really good,” Julien said. “We had some real good sticks there. They had some real good backdoor opportunities. Our sticks were there. If not, Tuukka was.”
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.