A night and a morning had passed since Ryan Spooner scored his first NHL goal, and he still couldn’t quite process what had happened. There was a bright disbelief to his words as he answered questions about the milestone before Saturday’s game against Arizona.
It was not just his goal, which won Friday night’s game in overtime. It was also the evolution of his line, one that was responsible for yet another goal on Saturday. That’s three goals in two games generated by the newly formed trio of Spooner, Milan Lucic, and David Pastrnak, and while that pace might not continue, the chemistry and chances are certainly a good start.
Lucic was the one to get the score on Saturday, tallying his 13th of the season in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Coyotes at the TD Garden, giving the Bruins wins in both ends of the weekend back-to-back. They were both games against less-than-stellar opponents, both games the Bruins needed to win. And, unlike in other recent games (the shootout loss to Edmonton, in particular), Boston managed to do exactly as it was supposed to do.
“I said to the guys before the game, ‘It’s not who we play, it’s how we play that matters right now from here until the end,’” coach Claude Julien said. “That’s the approach we have to take. We can’t afford to not be prepared for games like this just because of their record right now or what they’ve been going through.”
With Tuukka Rask (31 saves) back in the fold — after a one-game absence because of an illness — the Bruins had no trouble with Arizona, chasing goalie Mike Smith after they went up by four goals in the second period. The Bruins got goals from Lucic (2:40, first), Brad Marchand (14:13, first), Patrice Bergeron (3:02, second), and Zdeno Chara (11:50, second) on their way to the 2 points.
The only blemish was a Martin Erat deflection on a Shane Doan shot at 10:21 of the third period, preventing Rask from recording his third shutout of the season.
The new Spooner line was on the ice for that Erat goal, demonstrating some of the feast-or-famine nature of a line that is never going to rival the Marchand-Bergeron-Reilly Smith trio for two-way play.
But maybe that’s OK. Maybe the Bruins can sustain their game, even with a more offensive-minded line in their rotation.
“Looking at Spoons and Pasta and Looch’s line, I think they’re creating a lot of chances offensively, making good plays there,” Rask said. “Obviously they’re not the best defensive forwards out there, but they’re getting better at it because that’s what our game is all about, but we also need that offensive spark from them. They’re really providing that.”
That’s needed, as Julien said, in the absence of David Krejci, lost for four-to-six weeks with a partially torn MCL in his knee. Of Spooner, Julien called the difference he has made in their lineup, “refreshing.”
“We’ve been playing well since we’ve been put together here,” Lucic said. “Just talk about playing with confidence and playing with the puck and also don’t forget we need to be strong defensively and that will turn into offensive chances.
“I think, as a threesome, we’ve done a really good job of that so far, and I think you just stay the course. You can’t get overconfident or cocky just because we’ve had a couple good games. We need to stay on top of our game to make sure it keeps going in the right direction.”
That seems to be the direction the Bruins are headed of late, despite having given up a two-goal lead Friday. They have three wins in their last four games, all of those coming since Krejci went down.
Perhaps that youthful energy coming from Spooner, Pastrnak, and Brian Ferlin is contributing. Perhaps that boost is coming just when the Bruins need it, a surge of momentum that they can ride toward the playoff spot they should have already had wrapped up by now.
It certainly helped Friday and Saturday.
“It’s huge for our team right now,” Marchand said. “It’s something we were missing all year, different guys came up and they didn’t seem to have that. These guys that are up right now, they’re playing hard, they’re playing for spots, and they’re looking really good.
“We need that youthful energy. It gets the guys excited, it gets the older guys going, it gets them more into the game, and we feed off that energy. We’ve needed it and it definitely helps us right now.”