Coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens 24 hours ago, it was safe to say that the Boston Bruins faced a “trap game” with the desperate Phoenix Coyotes in town for Thursday night’s matchup. They might have felt a little tired in the end, but for the first 20 minutes, they came out flying.
During the opening 20, the Bruins outshot the Coyotes, 12-8. That advantage didn’t last long as they were outshot 14-8 the rest of the way that included three shots during a sleepy middle 20, a period where the Yotes only fired a grand total of two shots.
That first 20 minutes, however gave the Black and Gold enough separation in this one, as Zdeno Chara (his 16th at 5:54), Jarome Iginla (at 17:31) and a strong performance from Tuukka Rask (who had eight of his 21 saves in the first) lifted their team to a 2-1 win in front of the 200th consecutive sellout of 17,565 at the TD Garden.
“It was important that we had a good first period and we played a good game,” said Iginla, who is now tied with Brad Marchand for the team lead in goals with 21. “They are a very desperate hockey club, you know, when you’re going to come off the start and be able to match that. Not just match it, but I thought earlier we were able to take that physical play to them.”
At times, the Bruins were a little too physical, particularly when Jordan Caron was sent off for a four-minute high-sticking penalty at 10:17 of the first. That physicality, however, paid dividends during that shorthanded situation as the B’s gave the Coyotes little room to work with during the double minor and killed the penalty after allowing just two shots.
The Bruins killed off three more Coyotes power plays, which came into Thursday’s contest ranked third on the man advantage, and extended their streak to 15 straight attempts without allowing a goal. Not bad for a team that was still trying to find its rhythm on the PK without Dennis Seidenberg prior to the Olympic break.
“They had about 10 minutes of power plays and they have a pretty good power play,” head coach Claude Julien said about the penalty kill. “We had to use the same guys over and over again, and that’s not usually a good sign. But our penalty killing was good and we found a way to win.”
Like the third period of Thursday’s game, the Bruins have had some small hiccups during the seven-game streak. Granted they were coming off the second of a back-to-back, but they got the job done in the end.
Still, they are finding ways to win, and at this point of the season that’s all The Hub of Hockey can ask for.
“We are just playing Bruins hockey day in and day out and not trying too much,” said Rask, whose team surpassed the Penguins again for first place in the Eastern Conference with the victory. “Obviously, the schedule is so tough and we try to keep things simple and just put pucks in deep and try to grind it out and get some traffic in front of the net, and it’s been working well.”
“You always want to win, right?” Rask added. “We’ve seen that it doesn’t play that big of a role in the playoffs, but you still accomplish the home ice throughout the playoffs if you have it. But we’re happy to be at the top obviously.”
As good as they’ve been the last couple weeks, there’s always room for improvement. And that is just scary even thinking about it.
“We are finding ways to win games [but] I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey yet,” said Chara, who logged 26:53 of ice time to lead all Bruins skaters. “We can always improve. For sure there are areas that we need to improve, but we are finding a way to win hockey games right now, so that’s a big difference.”
Hear what the Bruins and Coyotes had to say following the Bruins 2-1 win Thursday night.