David Pastrnak thought he knew what was coming. He just had to turn on the jets, slice into the offensive zone, and he figured the puck would be there for him. He was right.
In one play, there was the growing chemistry between Pastrnak and linemates Loui Eriksson and David Krejci.
The pass from Krejci, lobbed over the Penguins defense from the neutral zone, was gloved by Pastrnak, who had beaten defenseman Derrick Pouliot and was going in on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. But on his way, he was tripped up by Pouliot, resulting in a penalty shot.
Pastrnak scored, the first of his two goals in the game.
“All I tried to do was put the puck in the net, then I had a lot of speed and I had to stop because I don’t think I will be able to make the shot with all of that speed,” Pastrnak said of the penalty shot.
But he was always thinking five-hole.
“It was my first mind right away — I shoot five-hole cause I had four [shootout attempts] last season and didn’t score any of [them], so I kind of was nervous and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Stick with my first thing on my mind and happy it went in.”
So were teammates. So was his coach.
“He’s been good for a while,” coach Claude Julien said. “I don’t think it’s tonight. I’ve liked his game now probably for the last three, four. Again, he’s come off a major injury and he’s had to catch up with the rest of the guys, and it takes time. At the beginning he really looked like he was having a tough time, but right now he’s certainly shown that he’s getting better and feeling more and more confident. To me, tonight, he was the guy for all three periods that I thought skated really well for us.”
But it’s not just his offense, with Pastrnak getting his seventh and eighth goals of the season on Wednesday. It’s the way his whole game is rounding into form.
“Better, better,” Julien said. “When you look at David last year, even the beginning of this year, every time he was in a battle along the walls you’d find him on his butt. So now he’s a little bit more — it’s not just about being stronger, it’s also about the experience.
“I think he’s getting a little bit lower vs. standing up straight — the minute you stand up straight you’re off balance. He’s trying to avoid the hit and that was hurting him more than anything else. It’s really gotten better in there.
“He’s never been a guy to shy away. As you know, he was on his butt because he was going there. But he’s getting a lot better along the walls and his skating game. The fact that he’s been playing now for a while has made a big difference, too. Like I said, that injury set him back quite a bit there. So it’s nice, again, to see him find his game and he was a really good player for that line tonight.”
And, with the trade deadline looming and the potential for Eriksson to be shipped out of town, an improving Pastrnak can only help the Bruins.
“The biggest thing is that he’s willing to learn and he’s working on stuff every day,” Krejci said. “He’s being professional off the ice as well. Tonight he had some legs and he had big two goals for us.
“Obviously he wants to be a complete player. It’s never easy to come into the league as an 18-year-old, so he’s done such a big stride so far in those last two years. He is just getting better every day.”
Long time coming
Landon Ferraro’s last goal was way back on Dec. 9, not long after the Bruins had picked him up on waivers from the Red Wings just before Thanksgiving. So he was more than happy to see another puck go in off his stick, this one coming at 14:26 of the third period on a breakaway.
“Honestly, I didn’t even see it go in,” he said. “I heard everyone else get excited, then I got a little too excited again. So it was nice to see. It was a big relief.”
And it wasn’t just the goal.
“He just seemed more engaged in all areas, right?” Julien said. “He got into a fight, he forechecked hard, he used his speed. We can certainly use that on our fourth line.”