NASHVILLE — It was a win every mother could love.
Six different Bruins, playing on four different lines, found the back of the net. Fourteen players in all hit the scoresheet. Their netminder was excellent, and he even recorded an assist. Their structure was solid, their decisions smart.
It added up to a 6-2 win Tuesday night over the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, easily the most complete win in recent weeks for the Bruins (25-8-11). They snapped a three-game skid, earned their first win of 2020, and won by four goals for the first time since Dec. 23.
It made for a very happy group of player moms, who were invited on this one-game trip and watched from a luxury box. Following the win, the 22 good-luck charms, wearing their sons’ jerseys, formed a tunnel in the hallway outside the Bruins’ dressing room and whooped and hollered as their boys headed to the bus. A reporter kiddingly asked coach Bruce Cassidy where the moms were partying before the game.
“I don’t know,” Cassidy said, raising his voice over their shouts, “but it must have been good.”
The coach, seemingly forever trying to wring secondary scoring out of a group that typically plays tight defense, got it in spades against the struggling Predators (19-16-7). David Pastrnak scored his league-leading 32nd goal of the season, but third-liners Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle (goal, assist each) and fourth-liners Chris Wagner (goal) and Par Lindholm (assist) factored in the scoring. Even Brett Ritchie (assist), after two games in mothballs, did the necessary dirty work to create a pretty snapshot finish from Heinen, previously snakebitten for three weeks and a healthy scratch three games ago.
“I don’t think we’ve ever considered ourselves a one-line team,” Cassidy said. “We’ve always felt that we’re a group of 20 guys who have to pull their weight, and if not, we’re not going to win every night.”
The Predators, who introduced new coach John Hynes some eight hours before puck drop, were abuzz over the coaching change but not game enough to make good on more than two of their seven power plays. The Bruins’ penalty kill, 24 for its last 24 coming in, got a boost from Tuukka Rask (33 saves). He stopped 11 shots on the PK and was stellar at all points. He made 15 stops in the second, foiled the Predators on several quality third-period scoring chances, and even recorded an assist on Coyle’s goal in the final minute.
“We were good in front of him early, and the second period they had their push,” Cassidy said of Rask, who only cracked on power-play goals by Filip Forsberg (on a five on three) and Mikael Granlund. With the Predators hunting momentum in the second period, Rask made a diving glove grab of a puck Viktor Arvidsson chopped toward an open side of the net.
“We got the lead, we extended the lead, had a lot of penalty kills, and battled hard in front of our net. Everybody contributed,” said Rask, whose mom, Irja, came from Finland and, according to her son, hadn’t been that far west before.
Pastrnak powered the visitors to a 1-0 lead at 1:36 of the first, beating Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne (30 saves) clean with a slapper on a rush into the zone. The Bruins went up, 3-1, after two periods. Heinen finished a smart play from defenseman Matt Grzlecyk (two assists), who held at the point and set up the winger in the slot after Coyle and Ritchie banged bodies down low. The third line, all three trying to find their games, worked for a night.
It would be “huge,” Cassidy said, if they could keep it going.
“Last year we were trying to put things together,” he said. “It turns a lot of those one-goal games into two- and three-goal wins when you get guys pitching in every night.”
At 2:51 of the third, Wagner made it 4-1 by deflecting a shorthanded shot by Lindholm, who drew a penalty as he rushed against coverage into the zone. After Granlund cut the Bruins’ lead to 4-2 with 1:54 left, David Krejci airmailed a 170-foot empty-netter and Coyle tapped in a Ritchie feed against sloppy Nashville defense.
Their mothers would have loved them regardless of the result, but the Bruins made sure they walked away happy.
“Sometimes you don’t have a chance to thank them enough for everything they’ve done,” Patrice Bergeron said in the locker room, over the shouting of his mom, Sylvie, and her friends. “They’re obviously excited, as you can hear. It’s been a great few days. Lots of laughs, lots of fun.”