The general idea, against the NHL’s top-rated power play, is not to get penalties. That goes double for a team, such as the Bruins, that had been struggling to contain opponents on the man advantage. So when Reilly Smith earned a slashing call just 3:13 into Sunday’s game against the Red Wings, one could almost imagine a pained sigh coming from Bruins coach Claude Julien.
A minute later there was no need for sighing. Brad Marchand, the Bruins’ hottest player with 10 points in his last 10 games, capitalized on a turnover by Stephen Weiss for the shorthanded goal that started the team on its way to a 5-3 win over Detroit at TD Garden.
It wouldn’t be the only time that sequence — Bruins penalty kill, turnover by Weiss, shorthanded goal — happened Sunday, either.
Behind a combination of two shorthanded goals, two power-play goals, and two goals from the previously ill-fated Daniel Paille, the Bruins continued their run of gaining points, with a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games.
“It’s our job to go out and play and we’ve got a confident group in here,” center Chris Kelly said. “We’ve been together for a while now. We’ve seen a lot. We know how to win and how to win in important times of the year. Right now, this month is huge for us. It’s nice to start the month off the way we have.”
And that was by taking advantage of special teams, by scoring when they should have been defending.
As Julien said, “That’s probably the tale of the game right there.”
After the Red Wings tied the score on a Gustav Nyquist goal at 7:01 of the first, the Bruins scored three consecutive goals to open up the game by the end of the second. They got a power-play strike from the left circle from David Pastrnak at 9:12 of the first, followed by the two Paille goals.
The fourth-line winger scored his first at 11:44 of the second, a breakaway that — finally — was productive for Paille, after he also took the puck from Weiss. The second shorthanded goal gave the Bruins eight on the season, tied for third in the NHL.
That was followed by a fourth-line score, an even-strength Paille goal at 18:39 of the second off a Gregory Campbell faceoff win and with a Max Talbot assist. It was the first time since Dec. 14, 2011, that Paille had scored multiple goals in a game.
“When they go in, it seems that you can almost do anything,” Paille said. “So a big part of the game is mental and sometimes they’re not going to go in and it’s just staying focused on the right things that we’re doing out there. For me, of course, it’s been a frustrating time for the most part of the season, but the main point is to stay with it.”
He has, and now Paille has recorded four goals in the six games since he spent two games in the press box as a healthy scratch. He had just one goal in the first 57 games of the season.
Detroit turned to Jimmy Howard to start the third, after Jonas Gustavsson got hurt, according to Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. And that was when the Red Wings made their push.
They sandwiched goals by Luke Glendening (1:24) and Marek Zidlicky (6:02) around a second power-play goal for the Bruins, this one by Loui Eriksson at 4:03.
At some point, Julien said, it crossed his mind to replace Niklas Svedberg with Tuukka Rask. He didn’t, wanting to commit to the day off for Rask, to Svedberg himself, and to the confidence that he knew his backup goalie needed. It worked out.
And though it wasn’t always easy — somehow a 4-1 game turned into a hold-onto-your-hats adventure in the final minutes — the Bruins left the building with the points they needed, despite having played three games in four days and two games over the weekend in fewer than 24 hours.
They left with confidence, too.
A team that has seemed on the verge of collapse multiple times — most of October, early January, middle of February — has started to look ready for a long run that could put away the teams behind it in the playoff race.
“Since we’ve turned the page on the trades and all that stuff, it just seems [like], ‘OK, this is our group here and this is what we’re going to go with,’ ” Julien said. “And they seem to be really close-knit and determined at the same time. I see a real strong focus right now.”
That’s crucial, with their current stretch that includes 11 games in 18 days, with games against playoff contenders throughout, continuing with Ottawa on Tuesday.
“We’re in a spot right now where if we keep playing the way that we’re playing, we’re going to find ourselves in the postseason and guys are working towards that,” defenseman Torey Krug said. “We’re not just sitting back and playing games. We’re here to win games and get our game going so we’re confident going into the playoffs.”