Brad Marchand scored the 20th shorthanded goal of his career in a 4-0 win over the Panthers on Saturday night. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)
After having dodged a fall out of the playoff structure for what’s felt like weeks, the Bruins woke up on the outside looking in on Saturday after a Friday night win by the Maple Leafs that bumped the Leafs into third in the Atlantic Division and the B’s down to ninth in the East.
It just might have been the wake-up call that some of the Bruins’ leaders, bolstered by a return of David Backes after having missed the previous three games with a concussion, needed in a 4-0 win over James Reimer and the Panthers at the BB&T Center.
But that wake-up call didn’t come off the jump.
Instead, and as usual, the Bruins started incredibly slow, and likely would have been in a hole to begin the night had it not been the usually dynamite-against-Florida play of Tuukka Rask. But they escaped further trouble when Brad Marchand stormed down on Reimer on a shorthanded break and connected for his 11th goal of the season.
The goal was Marchand’s first shorthanded goal of the season, which gives him shorthanded markers in seven straight seasons, and 20 for his NHL career. It’s the most in the league over that span, and only three active players (Marian Hossa has a league-high 33 while Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette have each scored 22 shorthanded goals) have scored more than Marchand’s 20 career shorthanded goals, and all three have played at least 400-plus more games than Marchand in their careers.
Marchand’s goal served as the perfect escape route for the B’s after 20 minutes of play, who led by one through the first period, and the club built off that when they extended their lead to two behind Backes’ deflection early in the second period, and then a power-play goal by Marchand thanks to a monstrous rebound by Reimer off a Torey Krug shot made it 3-0 at 9:40 in the second.
The Panthers had a chance to get back into the game with a power play late in the second period, but they were shut down behind a major shift from Zdeno Chara, and one that finished after 2:15 of time on ice for the 39-year-old captain.
It was the last gasp for the Panthers in a night that was all Bruins once the club got over the initial flurry against.
The common thread for the Black and Gold in this skid-snapping victory? The contributions came from their best.
Just two nights after an emotional Chara lamented the fact that the team really felt that they had let down the family of legendary Bruins figure Milt Schmidt on the day after his death, the B’s leaders came to play. You saw what a game-changing talent Marchand can be when he’s playing at his true level; Marchand not only scored big goals, but he drew the Panthers into a smart offside on what could have been a great chance when he got tangled up at the bench door with two Panther skaters, and then later drew a penalty in garbage time to truly put an end to Florida’s night. David Krejci and Backes really seemed to be on the same page in terms of their three-zone chemistry. Chara and the rest of the B’s defense put forth a mammoth defensive night and made the Panthers earn every inch of space in the B’s zone, and even then, they didn’t get much as most of their shots were held from up high and out of any real danger zone. And Tuukka Rask stopped all 25 shots thrown his way for his fifth shutout of the year.
If that becomes the norm (which really needs to happen if the Bruins are going to stay afloat in this division given the number of games in hand by the teams either above or below them), the B’s won’t have to worry about reading the morning standings.
The Bruins will look to make it two in a row and find some consistency with a Sunday head-to-head with the Hurricanes.