The Bruins are ‘getting uglier by the day,’ and that’s just how Bruce Cassidy likes it
He was speaking, with a note of admiration, about his hard-edged group’s missing teeth and bloody mouths. He certainly was not describing their style of play.
“Our team’s getting uglier by the day,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy announced to reporters after Tuesday’s win, and if takes a few facial adjustments to keep this streak going, so be it.
Three unanswered goals in the second period, including two in a span of 31 seconds, made Boston a breezy, 4-1 winner over San Jose at TD Garden.
Eight days after they produced one of the most thrilling and controversial games of the season, the Bruins and Sharks had more entertainment in store. For one team’s fans, anyway.
The Bruins (37-17-9), who have won 10 of their last 12 and have taken points in their last 14 (10-0-4), buzz-sawed their way through the second-place team in the West (37-19-8) on a night deadline addition Marcus Johansson looked quick and creative in his Bruins debut, and East Weymouth’s Charlie Coyle played at home for the first time in Black and Gold.
David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Brad Marchand scored for Boston, which improved to 6-0-1 without leading goal-scorer David Pastrnak. Backup netminder Jaroslav Halak stopped 19 of 20 shots.
Krejci produced a Pastrnak-like, power-play hammer from the circle. McAvoy, ever slick and instinctive, pinched and finished in the slot. DeBrusk finished a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play with Krejci and newcomer Johansson, his line displaying instant chemistry. And Marchand’s silent goal celebration — gliding with a thin and knowing smile, arms spread wide — spoke loudly.
Boston should feel great about its game entering Thursday’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 tilt against juggernaut Tampa.
“We’ll get an idea Thursday,” Marchand said. “We’ll focus on them, and worry about the next team after that.”
The Bruins opened the night outshooting the Sharks, 12-4, with three partial breakaways on Martin Jones and a power-play opportunity, but they were down, 1-0, after a bouncing biscuit eluded Halak at 12:47. With the Sharks on a power play, the puck was on the edge of the no-touch trapezoid, so Halak backed off. Zdeno Chara went backdoor with an outlet pass, and Halak thought he would go around the net. San Jose’s Logan Couture chipped it in.
But the Sharks, playing their third game in four nights, ran out of gas. Timo Meier put Boston on a four-minute power play by removing one of DeBrusk’s teeth with his stick. “Thankfully,” said DeBrusk, “it was fake anyway.” Nine seconds in, Krejci hammered a back-foot slapper from Pastrnak’s office, the left circle, off a one-touch pass from Torey Krug. The goal, at 14:39, made it 1-1 after 20 minutes, and left Coyle feeling he learned something about his new squad.
“A lot of character,” said Coyle, who was surprised to see Chara tap him for a ceremonial opening faceoff to honor fallen Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna, whose family dropped the puck. “Nothing fazes you. We did a good job of just playing our game, no matter what.”
The Bruins mashed the pedal in the second period, finding space and seams all over the ice. They took the lead for good 9:09 in, Danton Heinen making a smart chip to Marchand, who found McAvoy in the slot. A quick finish resulted from the young defenseman who, like comrade Brandon Carlo, was nearly impossible to beat defensively.
“I think our guys were locked in,” coach Bruce Cassidy said, praising McAvoy up and down and noting that Carlo had one of his “hardest, best defensive games” of the year. The play of the defensive unit, hard and committed and physical, helped Halak see whatever the Sharks produced.
“I don’t know that they had any second chances,” Cassidy said.
Less than a minute after McAvoy’s fifth of the year, the newly formed DeBrusk-Krejci-Johansson line produced a pretty one. DeBrusk edged past Joe Pavelski off the wall, fed Johansson in the slot, who one-touched to Krejci at the doorstep, who went cross-crease to DeBrusk. The second-year winger became a first-time 20-goal scorer by tapping it into an empty cage.
San Jose star Erik Karlsson, battling a groin injury of late, appeared to aggravate it early in the period. Defending in the slot, his legs buckled and he yelled in pain as he hit the ice. He limped down the tunnel and missed about seven minutes of action.
He made an admirable effort to return, but was limited, and didn’t play at all in the third. Marchand took advantage.
Shorthanded, the Bruins winger caught the puck in the neutral zone, undressed Karlsson, and tucked a quick backhander between Jones’s pads. The NHL’s active leader in shorthanded goals (25) tied Rick Middleton for most in Bruins history.
The period also saw Noel Acciari take an airborne puck to the mouth, a fight between Chris Wagner and Barclay Goodrow, and a flare-up between Sean Kuraly and Evander Kane. No-decisions came in the latter two instances, but it was evidence of clubs that were hot under the collar.
Kane lost his marbles 3:22 into the third, taking exception to Zdeno Chara decking him behind the net.
He jumped the Bruins captain and sucker-punched him to the ice, but Chara stood, put Kane at arm’s length, and tagged him with measured rights. Kane, who began barking at officials after taking the loss, was summarily booted from the game with 17 minutes in penalties and a misconduct. “That’s a classic headshot,” he said afterward, dissatisfied with the elbowing penalty assessed Chara.
After Kane’s ejection, David Backes obliged San Jose’s Micheal Haley in a fight, which is just about the only thing Haley was dressed to accomplish, and about the only move the out-of-gas Sharks had left. The crowd enjoyed that, too.
“They were unbelievable,” Johansson said. “A lot of adrenaline today, I think. This is a game I’ll remember for a long time.”