RALEIGH, N.C. — Brad Marchand, struggling to put the puck in the net throughout October, finished off the month with a devilish display of tenacity and touch here Tuesday night, rushing two-thirds the length of the ice to fire home the game-winner in the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
The goal, his second of the night, was a made-for-highlight-reel flourish that had Marchand fending off a backchecking Justin Williams for the better portion off all three zones. For a finishing touch, he wrapped around the net and finished off with a gimme at the right post.
As for an admiring coach, Bruce Cassidy, he felt it was as much a teaching tool as it was a Top 10 video clip. He hopes some of his other forwards, still in need of picking up their compete level, found the rush both motivational and instructive.
“You have to win battles on the walls,” said Cassidy, noting how Marchand triggered his rush, after a feed from Patrice Bergeron (three assists). “And chip pucks to space and win the races. He’s good at that. And some of our guys were behind, early on, just not willing to compete on a puck, win it on a wall, move it to space and use their legs. And we have some young players who can do that . . . so that’s disappointing to me.”
The goal, only Marchand’s fourth this season, helped the Bruins close out the month with respectable 7-3-2 record, all the more impressive considering that they opened the season with a 7-0 pasting at the hands of the Capitals. They have since played at a .727 clip, outscoring the opposition, 37-22.
The win here also had Jaroslav Halak at his best, turning back 42 shots, including three shorthanded chances by the ’Canes, who easily could have blown the game wide open early in the second when the Bruins were napping their way through a power-play chance. In a span of 25 seconds, Halak turned back Jordan Martinook on a 2-on-1 and then Warren Foegele on straight-down-Broadway breakaway attempt.
The two saves by Halak kept the Hurricanes’ lead at 1-0, allowing the Bruins to regroup in the second once Cassidy finally shook up his lines.
“I knew coming into the game that these guys shoot a lot,” said Halak, who is now 4-0-2 as Tuukka Rask’s co-tender. “They average something like 41 shots a game. It gets a goalie into the game when they shoot early, and I’m just glad we were able to come [up] with a victory tonight.”
Cassidy, quicker to change things up after seeing his squad struggle Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Montreal, in the middle period moved second-year wingers Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk to the end of the bench. He also flipped top right winger David Pastrnak over to David Krejci’s line, moving ex-’Canes winger Joakim Nordstrom to the right side with Bergeron and Marchand.
Cassidy is not impatient, but he also won’t let dead wood become petrified. DeBrusk finished the night with 13:11 in ice time, Bjork with 8:12 and Ryan Donato with 12:09, only 6:36 of which was at even strength. Clearly, the coach wants more out of all of them.
“Hopefully they learned a lesson from [Marchand] tonight,” said Cassidy. “Trust me, that’s an area of the game . . . we’re young, we’re going to have young legs and you’re going to have play a certain way against good hockey clubs — and Carolina is a good team and they press up on you.”
Marchand, now with a 4-11—15, hasn’t been pleased with his game, particularly with his lack of success at putting pucks in the net. He finished with 34 goals in 68 games last season, and until here he was on pace for about 15.
“Nice to get a couple tonight, but it all starts with big plays from other guys,’ said Marchand, later adding, “I think I just have a little more of a shooting mentality. Two goals in whatever it was — 11 or 12 games — that’s not really acceptable. Gotta be better.”
The two sides divvied up four power-play goals over the first 40 minutes, with the Bruins battling back from deficits of 1-0 an 2-1 to pull even into the second period.
The ’Canes pushed to their first lead at 17:54 of the first on a mob scene at the Boston net, Micheal Ferland tapping a loose puck by Halak after Sebastian Aho tagged the goalie with a sharp wrister from the left circle.
Finally, with 12:22 gone, David Pastrnak drilled in the first of the tying goals, connecting with a bad-angle snap shot from the left after Torey Krug set him up with a short pass from the left wing circle. Krug had his first primary assist of the season, playing his first game after being sidelined a month with an ankle injury.
The ’Canes moved back ahead, 2-1, when ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton ripped home a one-timer with only 1:27 left in the second. Jordan Staal set it up, with a rare clean swipe from Bergeron on the draw to Halak’s left. It was only the second goal this season for Hamilton, who was traded here from the Flames in June.
With only 18 seconds left in the period, Marchand connected with a 20-foot wrister from the left side, set up with a long-bomb pass by Berergon. The goal came only seconds after Bergeron and Pastrnak hustled back to deny Foegele on a breakaway attempt down the middle. Bergeron, no doubt peeved over losing the draw to Staal on the previous goal, fired long through the neutral zone to send Marchand charging down the left side.