Ryan Spooner had to go home to have the most productive game of his NHL career.
The Kanata, Ontario native netted two goals as the Bruins enjoyed a 3-1 win over the Senators Tuesday in Ottawa. Spooner picked up his second career goal with a second-period power play tally and added an even strength goal by finishing off a Milan Lucic net drive later in the period.
The 23-year-old center now has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the eight games since he was called up following David Krejci‘s knee injury. Spooner is also riding a six-game point streak (three goals four assists).
The game should be a confidence-booster for Spooner, as his production had recently been accompanied by some five-on-five struggles for his line in a weekend that saw his group stuck in the defensive zone too much for Claude Julien‘s liking.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
BRUINS KEEP SENATORS AWAY
With the win, the Bruins created some distance between themselves and an Ottawa team that was pushing for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The B’s now sit seven points ahead of the Sens through 66 games, though Ottawa has one game in hand. The Panthers (72 points in 66 games) sit between the two teams.
RASK TURNS 28, NEARLY TURNS IN A SHUTOUT
Though Tuesday was Tuukka Rask‘s birthday, it was the netminder who gave a gift to his teammates with a solid performance that kept the Bruins with a bigger lead than they may have deserved.
Rask survived a 21-shot barrage in the second period from Ottawa, though he was helped out by three hit posts. The Senators finally broke up his shutout when Matt Puempel took a puck off the end boards from a wide Patrick Wiercioch point shot and tapped it into the net.
The reigning Vezina-winner finished the night with 39 saves on 40 shots faced.
Perhaps David Pastrnak and linemates Lucic and Spooner spent so much time stuck in their own zone last weekend that they forgot what to do in the offensive zone.
Pastrnak, who entered Tuesday with just two penalties in 29 career games, took two penalties — both in the offensive zone — in the first 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game. The 18-year-old tripped Eric Gryba on his first shift of the game and, about six minutes after leaving the penalty box for that infraction, smothered the puck behind the net for a delay of game call.
ERIKSSON FLASHES SKILL
Loui Eriksson continued what figures to be a relatively quiet 20-plus goal campaign with a sensational play that got him to 17 goals on the season.
With the Senators not getting the puck deep on a line change in the second period, Dougie Hamilton threw the puck off the boards up the ice from his own end with Eriksson giving chase. Eriksson beat Cody Ceci to the puck in the offensive zone and made a brilliant one-hand pass to himself through the defenseman before beating Craig Anderson to make it 2-0.
It’s hard to tell who’s more relieved at the turnaround of Daniel Paille. Both player and coach Claude Julien have to reason to be elated with the recent production of the fourth line left wing.
Since being benched for the final two games of the five-game road trip, Paille has been on fire. His two goals Sunday were the difference in a 5-3 win over the Red Wings at TD Garden. He has four goals in the six games since, including Sunday’s short-handed marker.
“Sometimes when you sit out you get to reflect on what you can do better,” Paille said after Sunday’s offensive display. “For me, I definitely kept a positive attitude about it. Like l’ve said before, Claude was great with me about it. Coming back, kind of a play like you’ve got nothing to lose. Just keep working. If you keep working, good things will come out of it, and so far, that’s what’s been going right now. So it’s a huge boost I guess.”
“I’m sure it helped him in a good way, not necessarily as a wake-up call, more than watching the game and missing it,” Julien added. “At the same time, I think there’s no doubt the trade deadline’s over, guys know they’re here, there’s a lot of players that have picked up their game I think since then. Whether it’s a combination of that or combination of where we are in the standings and wanting to make sure we get ourselves into a playoff spot and doing whatever it takes, could be a lot of different things. It’s nice to see a lot of those players really bring their game up a notch.”
Paille was the butt of many jokes about the Bruins’ lack of finish around the net. He’s had the last laugh since being re-inserted into the lineup. Paille went 36 games without a goal and scored in each of his first two games back. On Sunday, he matched that total in just three shots.
“When they go in, it seems that you can almost do anything, so a big part of the game is mental and sometimes they’re not going to go in and it’s just staying focused on the right things that we’re doing out there and for me of course it’s been a frustrating time for the most part of the season, but the main point is to stay with it and having the support through the whole team here is definitely a huge boost for all of us,” Paille said.
Paille now has five goals on the season. The only player hotter is Brad Marchand, with five goals in four games, including one on Sunday. The difference is the Bruins expect the production from Marchand. With Paille, it’s icing on the cake.
And with the trade deadline passed, Paille is playing like a player with a huge weight off his shoulders.
“I think that everyone is grateful that time has passed and now we can just focus on playing,” Paille said. “I’m sure it’s always in the back of someone’s mind. You don’t think it will happen but when it does you don’t want to be shocked, but yeah, time has passed. Everyone seems to be focused on the game now and I think that’s important to move forward.”
Based on an incredibly brief three-game sample, Talbot looks like the right piece for Paille and Gregory Campbell.
“He fits obviously perfectly right now. These last couple of games that we’ve got to play together, it just feels natural. We’ve played pretty much similar styles, all three of us. We like to grind it out and try to outwork teams and I think he gives us that extra boost that we’ve been missing. I think Soup and I realize that we need to pick up the slack here, whether it’s scoring or outworking other teams, it’s time. Seventeen, 18 games left, there’s no more excuses.
“You know, I’ve played with Max before and Soupy’s easy to read off guys as well so you know I think it’s just that we know how we play, each of us, and even though we haven’t had a lot of time with Max it just feels natural out there and it makes the game a lot easier. One thing I think we’re doing a lot better is holding onto the puck and not just getting rid of it, so it’s definitely been a big help having Max with us because I think we want to thrive to be that best line again and we can do that with Max.”
Paille hopes to be a big part of the Bruins push toward the finish line and another lengthy stay in the playoffs.
“It’s good to get the four points that we needed and the way we battled back in [Saturday’s] game,” Paille said. “We have to put that into the next game and the next games to come. We’ve got Ottawa who’s right behind us and they’re playing today as well so they can be three points back and it’s definitely going to be harder than it’s ever been especially towards this end of the season.”
The Bruins can thank their special teams and an improving fourth line for finishing off a sweep of what figured to be a very difficult back-to-back this weekend.
The Bruins scored a pair of shorthanded goals off Stephen Weiss turnovers, while David Pastrnak and Loui Eriksson netted power-play goals in a 5-3 win over the Red Wings (box). Boston’s only even-strength goal came in the form of a second-period Daniel Paille tally, his second of the day after netting a shorty earlier in the period.
The game marked Paille’s first two-goal game since Dec. 14, 2011 and continued what’s been quite the renaissance for the veteran winger after getting scratched late last month. After netting just one goal over the first 57 games of the season, Paille has now scored four goals in six games since his benching.
Maxime Talbot appears to be a permanent fit on Boston’s fourth line going forward. In assisting Paille’s second goal, he now has helpers in two straight games.
The win improved Boston’s record to 33-22-10 with 76 points. The B’s increased their lead over the Panthers to four points for the second wild card spot with one game in hand. Boston trails Washington (82 points) by six point, though the B’s have two games in hand.
Here are four more things we learned Sunday:
MARCHAND STAYS HOT
A day after scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals against the Flyers, Marchand picked a puck from Weiss’ stick at the blueline and raced to a breakaway on which he got Jonas Gustavsson to bite on a deke. The goal was his third in less than eight minutes of hockey.
Marchand’s first-period goal was his fifth in the last four games to bring him to a team-leading 22 on the season.
SPOONER LINE BECOMING DANGEROUS
After spending much of Saturday’s game in their own zone, Ryan Spooner’s line with Milan Lucic and Pastrnak continued to give Julien reason to worry.
Lucic committed a turnover that led to a Gustav Nyquist goal in the first period, with Detroit following Philadelphia’s lead and enjoying lengthy stays in Boston’s zone Sunday. Detroit also scored against the line in the third period.
With the Bruins having to play just over 19 hours after the conclusion of Saturday’s overtime win, Claude Julien faced a tough decision between starting playing Rask twice in less than 24 hours or going with his backup in what figured to be a tough contest.
Julien’s faith in Niklas Svedberg paid off thanks solely to the fact that the Bruins scored five goals. Svedberg allowed a couple of soft goals, including a horrifying goal against early in the third period in which an easy wrister from Luke Glendening off the rush trickled in five-hole.
Svedberg appeared to have trouble seeing Marek Zidlicky’s power-play goal from the point later in the period.
CAMPBELL STAYS IN
Brian Ferlin took warmups prior to Sunday’s game, but Julien opted to keep Gregory Campbell in the lineup and Ferlin out.
There’s probably something a decision to be made there going forward, but for now it seems Julien wants to see how a fourth line of Campbell centering Daniel Paille and Talbot will work. Campbell drew a penalty Saturday in his first game back from an upper-body injury, but he also took an unnecessary icing that led to a defensive zone faceoff on which Philadelphia took the lead.
Ferlin has struggled of late, most notably failing to get the puck in deep before a line change Thursday that led to a Flames goal, but Julien should embrace a rotation and not be afraid of scratching one of his veterans at times down the stretch.
Given the line’s success Sunday (Campbell did take a second-period holding penalty), the three will probably stay together for the time being.
Bruins right wing Brett Connolly met with reporters prior to Sunday’s game, doing so for the first time since breaking the index finger in his right hand in his second practice with the team.
Connolly is expected to miss six weeks, but he hopes he can return before then and get into a regular-season game or two. He underwent surgery Thursday and will have an appointment Monday to see how the finger, which had a plate put over it, is healing.
The trade deadline acquisition said that he knew something was wrong when Dennis Seidenberg‘s wrist shot hit him in Wednesday’s practice. He didn’t react as such, however, as he skated and chatted with the defenseman immediately after.
“Obviously he came to see if I was OK, and you want to lie to him and tell him that you’re OK, but when your finger looks broken, it’s [obvious],” Connolly said. “For me, I felt bad for him because it was just such a harmless shot. It was just a wrister that was just in a spot that I couldn’t get out of the way. It just hit me in a weird spot.”
Connolly had his right hand surgically reconstructed after breaking it in an accident as a five-year-old. He said Sunday that his current injury is unrelated and that he’s happy with his latest surgery.
Julien said that Connolly will not travel with the Bruins for the time being. Connolly hopes to begin skating soon and adding more drills and eventual puck work as his finger heals. For now, Julien said the team wants him to focus on feeling better.
“I think right now it’s more about his recovery for the first few weeks, at least,” Julien said. “We’ve been talking to him. We’ve already shown him a lot of stuff about our team, about our system that he’s very well aware of before the injury actually, so I’m sure that watching us play is going to help him a lot in regards to that. If he’s got some questions, we’re always there to answer those things, but he’ll be fine. He’ll have a good idea of what to do when he’s ready to come back.”
Hour 2 kicks off with Andy Brickley joining the boys to discuss the state of the B's. Later, the guys discuss the depressing story of trading for Brett Connolly only to lose him 2 days later to a finger injury - a microcosm of the overall Bruins season. They talk more about the cap and the future of the organization.
In hour 1 of another great edition of Sunday Skate, DJ and Joe discuss a huge week for the B's after the trade deadline and contract extensions. They get into Chiarelli's moves and give him credit for not mortgaging the future. They talk about the new deals for Krug and Smith and what they mean for the future of the team. DJ and Joe sat down with Krug on Saturday and we hear their interview. Also, Ryan Lambert from Puck Daddy talks with them about the salary cap. They also discuss the return of some great play from Brad Marchand and his performance yesterday.
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