COLUMBUS, Ohio — Without Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins were left without their best all-around player accompanying them for the start of their three-game season opening road trip. The immediate aftermath didn’t look too good as the Black and Gold trailed the Blue Jackets 2-0 in front of a sold out Nationwide Arena crowd of 18,144.
Leave it to the Bruins first line, without Bergeron, to pick up the slack.
On a night where the Bruins made some costly mistakes in the opening 20 minutes, including Tuukka Rask’s soft goal he allowed on Columbus’ first shot of the game off the stick of Alex Wennberg, and on a night where the four B’s rookies showed some opening night jitters, the top line of Brad Marchand, David Backes (filling in for Bergeron) and David Pastrnak carried the load. The trio tallied two goals each and secured an opening night 6-3 victory after trailing twice by two goals during the course of 60 minutes.
“Well that’s what it takes sometimes to win hockey games. You need some guys to be hot and that line was tonight,” Julien said about the B’s top line. “As I mentioned earlier, you know, for David Backes to step up and replace one of the best forwards in the league and have instant chemistry with that line was important, and that made a difference. But, you know, all three of them played extremely well and it was nice to see us come through with a big win when you’re missing a guy like Bergeron.”
“When you get down you want to push harder — everyone wants to push harder — and that’s what happened,” added Marchand, who also notched three second period assists en route to first star honors. “I think we got sync a lot better too. We were playing the system a lot better; the D’s were pinching guys were picking each other up, and that’s where we’re at our best. We kind of fed off of that, and once we got one, we were able to roll after that.”
That one goal Marchand talked about happened in the second period when he intercepted a clearing attempt from Zach Werenski and fed Pastrnak in front for an easy tap-in at 2:36. Though they trailed by two again, the top unit battled through as Backes scored twice — both resulting in driving towards the net — to tie the game at 3-3 entering the third.
That’s where Marchand took over scoring twice, including a game-winner off of Pastrnak’s rebound on a breakaway at 9:54 of the third, while the 20-year old added the empty netter to seal the victory.
“I think our character showed. We got better as the game went on and I thought our third period was our best period tonight,” said Backes.
“It was one of those nights where everything was going our way for us tonight. A couple of fortunate bounces, but I thought we were making our own luck to keep it in the offensive zone. A couple of beautiful plays by my linemates who scored some goals in the third and it’s fun to celebrate that many times in one game.”
They all delivered in a unique way. Whether it was Marchand playing arguably one of the best games of his career, or Pastrnak creating plays or Backes tipping pucks in front of the net, the top line proved to be a handful for John Tortorella’s bunch.
Communication with one another played a big role according to Pastrnak.
“We talked before the game that we need to talk a lot, especially down low in our zone we had to talk to each other, and I think that’s what helped us the most,” said Pastrnak, who was a plus-6 on the night. “I think the biggest key for me was we were talking to each other, and at least for me a young player helping out [Backes and Marchand].”
Will this lead to a controversy to move Bergeron to another line? Highly doubtful.
Either way, the Bruins would love to have Bergeron return for Saturday’s game against the uber-talented phenom Auston Matthews and the rest of the Maple Leafs. Given his four-goal performance against the Senators on Wednesday, the B’s will need to minimize the mistakes if they want to make it two straight to start 2016-17.
“We’ll take it, move on and put the two points in the bank,” Backes said. “We have to go to Toronto — their home opener — in a couple of nights — and we need a better effort tonight to beat those guys and get to 2-0 on Saturday.”