According to Claude Julien, by the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Penguins, “We looked more like ourselves.” In the end, it was both true and not true.
The Bruins looked more like themselves at their best, the idealized version that has faded in and out this season.
The Bruins put away the Penguins in the third period at TD Garden, scoring three unanswered goals in the 20 minutes to earn a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh, earning a much needed and very welcome home win.
By that point, the Bruins had loosened up, found their skating legs, and rediscovered their offense-from-defense mentality that is a key to their season.
“We talked about the things we’re not doing at home that we do on the road,” Julien said. “We needed a better approach and to find details. I think there was a lot of focus on that and sometimes when you focus too much on those things you carry a little bit of extra weight with you. Once we loosened up a little bit I thought we were much better.”
Halfway through the third period, the onslaught began. It started with a goal from Jimmy Hayes (10:34) on a beautiful feed from Ryan Spooner, created by his speed and a cross-crease pass that needed just a tap-in by the winger. It continued with goals by Landon Ferraro (14:26) and Brad Marchand (15:27).
But they had gotten to that point largely on the work of two players: David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask.
Pastrnak scored the first two goals for the Bruins, potting a penalty shot at 16:00 of the first period after Derrick Pouliot was called for hooking on a breakaway. He added his second, off a turnover by Olli Maata, from behind the goal line at 3:12 of the second.
“He seemed like he found his stride tonight,” defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “He can create things, he’s got that speed and quick hands. He was pretty tenacious tonight and even got in on some battles. He’s still a young guy, so if he can continue to improve in those areas, he is going to be pretty dangerous.”
Rask (41 saves) was sharp in net, allowing just a second-period goal. At 4:07 of the period, a rebound bounced in front of the net and was knocked in by the skate blade of an onrushing Tom Kuhnhackl. The goal was reviewed, but it was determined there was no distinct kicking motion.
“They had a lot of chances, but we took their rebound chances away,” Rask said. “And we knew they were going to look for those backdoor plays a lot, we took care of those, and it resulted in a pretty good defensive effort.
“Obviously we wanted to improve our home record and stop giving up a lot of goals in general. We still gave up a lot of shots, but I thought it was a great defensive effort and we battled hard and kept the goals against down, and got the win.”
It wasn’t perfect, but it was important.
Ultimately, this was a win they needed. Pittsburgh began the night two points behind Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and the Bruins were coming off a bad home loss to Columbus on Monday.
On Wednesday, they vowed to be different.
“In the beginning we were kind of tight,” Rask said. “We were trying but we were just not making plays. We were kind of nervous. But in the third period especially I thought we managed the situation well, and even though they had a couple chances, we never panicked. We just capitalized on our chances and that resulted in five goals, which is great.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.