WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Tuukka Rask was not a happy goalie.
In Thursday’s first period, the Jets hammered Rask with 18 pucks, two of which eluded his grasp. By halfway through the second, the Jets had peppered Rask with 12 straight shots while the Bruins failed to put a single puck on relief goalie Michael Hutchinson. Rask was weary of the rubber assault.
“You look at the way we played in the first 30 minutes,” said Rask, “you’re not going to win a good amount of games if you play like that.”
Rask was the happiest player to see his teammates turn things around. At 10:53 of the second, Patrice Bergeron finally put a puck on net. It was the first of 18 straight shots that went off Bruins sticks and onto the Winnipeg net.
Puck possession, shutdown play in the neutral zone, and no-nonsense goaltending by Rask turned a 3-2 nail-biter into a 6-2 laugher over the Jets at MTS Centre. Not only did the Bruins launch a six-game road trip with an airtight final 30 minutes, they chased away the stench of their 9-2 embarrassment against Los Angeles in their previous game.
“It was a good response,” said coach Claude Julien. “Maybe we were a little shaky there at the beginning, a fair portion of the first period. We gave them a couple goals. We really wanted to try and minimize our goals against on this road trip. So it was nice we were able to shut them down. We kind of found our game again, started playing smart, and doing the right things.”
Naturally, their best line helped the Bruins pull away from the Jets.
During the squirrelly first period, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Brett Connolly were the only threesome to play on the right side of the puck. At 1:38, Marchand set up Bergeron at the far post to beat Connor Hellebuyck.
Marchand was on the receiving end later in the first when he took a pass from Connolly, shook off Winnipeg’s backcheck, and lifted a backhander over Hellebuyck. It was Marchand’s 11th goal in his last 11 games.
“He’s playing very well right now,” Connolly said of Marchand. “He’s very confident and making good plays. For him, when he’s skating, moving his feet, and is confident, it’s very hard to play him and knock him off the puck. He’s playing very, very good. He’s probably been our best player for a while now. He seems to score every night. It’s impressive.”
In the second, Marchand and Bergeron flexed their muscles against old friend Blake Wheeler. Tempers rose after Bergeron and Wheeler exchanged slashes. Marchand came to defend his center. Wheeler pushed back, and they were both sent off for roughing at 8:55. Then at 13:57, after a brief discussion about their earlier stickwork, Bergeron and Wheeler dropped their mitts and engaged in a short bout.
By then, the Bruins had halted the defensive bleeding. When Winnipeg advanced into the Boston zone, the defensemen turned the Jets around by retrieving pucks rapidly and moving them the other way. In turn, the forwards positioned themselves smartly up the ice by setting picks, filling lanes, and slowing down Winnipeg’s heavy forecheck.
The Jets didn’t have an answer.
“We were playing our game,” Zach Trotman said. “When guys are advancing pucks, especially at both blue lines, it makes it tough for the other team to gain some traction. I felt like we were doing a really good job in the neutral zone getting pucks deep, establishing a forecheck. It wears teams down, especially on defensemen when you go back on pucks for a period, period and a half.”
The Bruins’ recommitment to their game — chipping pucks out, chasing them down, controlling the play in the offensive zone, setting traps in center ice — turned into goals in the third. David Pastrnak scored a critical goal in the opening minute of the third. After taking an outlet pass from David Krejci, Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey pulled away for a two-on-one rush against Dustin Byfuglien. Hutchinson kicked out Pastrnak’s first shot, but the right wing punched in the rebound to give the Bruins a 4-2 lead.
Bergeron pushed in his second of the night at 7:42. Jimmy Hayes closed out the game with an empty-net goal at 15:12.
At the other end, the once-busy Rask could have pulled up a rocking chair. He didn’t see a single puck for the final 10:37 of the second period. Mathieu Perreault recorded Winnipeg’s first shot on goal of the third at 6:50.
“In the first, we were giving them too many of the slot plays defensively,” Bergeron said. “Then we closed it and played a solid game.”