LAS VEGAS — Spotting the Golden Knights a pair of goals, the Bruins steamrolled back on The Strip with four straight goals to remain perfect on the season Tuesday.
In a 4-3 win at T-Mobile Arena, Boston’s top line broke out for three goals and some of their trademark “Did you see that?” puck movement, seen so often in last year’s run to the Cup Final.
Bolstered by Brad Marchand (two goals, assist) and David Pastrnak (goal, two assists) the Bruins (3-0-0) shed their so-so offensive start, seen in Dallas and Arizona.
“Nice to score a few more goals,” said Marchand, ready for another test in Colorado on Thursday. “We’re a resilient team. We’ve shown that plenty of times.”
They came back from a 2-0 deficit in the first period, outshot the VGKs overall, 35-34, and played a high-energy, nimble, and creative game, while stopping the roll of a top Western Conference contender.
Vegas, which opened the year by pounding the rival Sharks in a home-and-home (aggregate score: 9-1), came out firing Tuesday. With first-period strikes from Mark Stone (two goals) and Reilly Smith, they put the visitors behind for the first time in 2019-20.
Coach Bruce Cassidy put his lines in a blender. The temporary loss of Matt Grzelcyk, who blocked a shot on his first shift and missed the rest of the first period, had the Bruins playing with five defensemen.
The Bruins weathered that, took full control of the game, and held the Knights (2-1-0) to seven shots in the third period — none in the first 11:32 holding that two-goal lead.
“We didn’t give them an inch,” said Tuukka Rask, who stopped 31 shots.
Vegas cut it to one with 5:18 left, when Max Pacioretty sent a power-play wrister from the right circle past Rask. The former Hab had that man-advantage chance when Marchand cross-checked Brayden McNabb at the other end.
That fired up the packed house of 18,223, and Vegas emptied its net with 1:41 left. Rask was on his belly as the clock ran out, after a few close calls in the waning seconds. He had to be helped to the bench by two teammates, but walked down the tunnel under his own power and with pace.
Rask said he was cramping up from the heat in the building.
“Hot out there,” he said. “Not used to it.”
When Vegas turned up the temperature with that lead, Boston stayed cool. The defense escaped Vegas forecheckers with quick feet. At the other end, and they sustained more offensive-zone pressure. They began flowing.
“The game got heavier than the first two,” Cassidy said. “We responded well. We were down. We didn’t panic.”
The initial damage for Boston started when Brett Ritchie crashed Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury at 5:15 of the first. On the resulting power play, Mark Stone took a spinning pass from Pacioretty and powered it through Rask’s glove from in tight at 6:36 of the first.
A little more than two minutes later, Smith cashed a Jonathan Marchessault feed in front, after a puck eluded Brandon Carlo.
The top line cut the lead to 2-1 three minutes later, at 11:21. Patrice Bergeron stole a puck along the boards. Marchand’s head-and-shoulder fakes had rookie defender Nicolas Hague swimming. Marchand fed a driving Pastrnak for a slam dunk, No. 88’s first this season.
“You don’t know which way it’s going to go as a coach,” Cassidy mused. “You might think, ‘Well, this is the game, they’re going to hand it to us and [we’ll] learn a lesson.’
“Our team’s pretty good that way. They know how to play the right way. That goal helped get us in the right direction.”
At that point, Cassidy promoted Ritchie to David Krejci’s right wing, which didn’t work. He put Charlie Coyle there on the next shift, with Danton Heinen replacing Jake DeBrusk on the left. A great call, it turned out. On its first shift together, the Heinen-Krejci-Coyle line bullied its way into the Vegas zone.
They established pressure.
They made Fleury sweat.
Heinen drew a slashing call, his first of two drawn penalties. Rewarded with time on the top power-play unit, Heinen set a screen as Pastrnak fed Marchand for a one-timer at the left dot at 18:58 of the first. Tie game.
And on the first shift of the second, it was 3-2. Pastrnak, who later deked his way in front center ice past crew of befuddled Knights, went pool hall on this one. On the fresh sheet of ice, he turned in his own zone and saw Marchand sneaking behind two defenders.
Marchand took his bank pass at the blue line, broke in, and ripped his second of the game off the far post.
“I knew he’d see me,” Marchand said.
Coyle raised his stick in front on the ensuing shift, thinking he had a stuff-in. He didn’t have to wait long for the next Bruins goal.
David Backes, returning to the lineup with jump and jam, crashed the end boards and forced a turnover. Torey Krug’s deflected slapper from the point eluded Fleury.
Rask allowed the 4-3 goal, but he held the fort when Vegas crashed and scrambled. He also got some luck, when Pacioretty rang the elbow of the goal after a turnover in front.
The end was a 6-on-5 scramble, in front of a hot crowd. Rask was, and has been, on his game this October.
But nothing was more encouraging for those in Black and Gold than that those star forwards, swaggering off The Strip.
“We have a good team,” Marchand said. “That’s the bottom line . . . If we’re going to get beat, we’re either going to have a really bad game, or another team’s going to out-battle us.”
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.