Having experimented with new lines after their recent four-game road trip, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien reverted back to the usual suspects.
With the Bruins trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by one midway through the third period, Julien decided to reunite Milan Lucic with David Krejci and Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron with Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. This came despite Lucic scoring his first goal in 15 games – since Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers – to pull the Black and Gold within one at 2-1 at 9:24 of the second period.
Well, it’s safe to say the shift paid off as Bergeron netted his ninth of the season at 10:24 of the third thanks to a nifty feed from defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins’ assistant captain scored the eventual shootout winner in the team’s 3-2 victory in front of another sellout crowd of 17,565 Monday night at the TD Garden.
Despite developing some good chemistry with Seguin and Daniel Paille during the first two periods, Bergeron felt comfortable with Marchand’s arrival in the final 20.
“I mean I honestly felt great with Piesy, so I’m not going to take anything away from him at all,” Bergeron said about Paille, who’s five shots on goal led all skaters.
“It was great to play with both Piesy and Marchy. Obviously we have that chemistry that’s been going for a long time and right away as soon as [Claude] put us back together we felt at home pretty much.”
Lucic, who started with Jordan Caron and Rich Peverley, echoed similar statements after reuniting with Horton and Krejci.
“It was good,” he said. “It wasn’t too long that we were apart so obviously we were pressing to tie the game,” he said. “I think we’re a big part of this team and we need to step up our game and there’s 17 games left starting Wednesday. We want to get our game to where it needs to be.”
Shuffling the lines at yesterday’s practice was Julien’s attempt to shake things up. Those results did not pay immediate dividends, but it did eventually get a response.
Restoring the units to its original lines midway through the third was Julien’s attempt to come away with the victory.
“I guess you try and say ‘well, there’s a half a period left’,” Julien said. “Looch was skating well so you put him back with his line, and you hope that maybe a little bit of chemistry is going to make a difference. And that’s what you’re trying to do.”
This is not the first time Julien has shifted lines during the third period. Against the Montreal Canadiens earlier this season, the Bruins bench boss switched Seguin and Horton on the top two lines and the Bruins scored twice (on goals from Seguin and Krejci) early in the final stanza to squeak out a 2-1 win.
With the Habs coming to town on Wednesday in a battle for first place in the Northeast Division, the question now is will Julien stick with the original lines or revert to the combinations that started Monday’s game. Either way, he’ll be looking for another response from the Black and Gold in a crucial contest between the two hated rivals.