Pouliot strikes first against former team
BOSTON – After an early season slump, Benoit Pouliot seems to be fitting in quite nicely with his new squad.
Since being paired with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley on the third line, the ex-Montreal Canadien is getting noticed in The Hub of Hockey with his improvement during the last two months.
Against his former squad Monday night, Pouliot scored the game’s opening tally at the 12:13 mark of the first period – his first against Montreal in a Boston Bruins uniform and sixth of the season – and, more importantly, contributed to the Black and Gold’s 3-2 victory at the TD Garden.
“It always feels good,” Pouliot said about scoring against his former team. “Obviously winning is a lot better and it feels great. Putting a goal out there felt good.”
Following a faceoff in the Habs zone, Peverley gathered the puck off the draw and fed Pouliot in the slot. From there, Pouliot snapped one past goaltender Carey Price and broke the ice.
“Sometimes off the draw we can get some things drawn up like that, but not all the time,” Pouliot said about his goal. “This time they gave me the signal that it was time to do it and I thought we executed the play pretty well.”
When signing with the Bruins as a free agent this summer, many thought that GM Peter Chiarelli put the team in a win-win situation much like he did when signing another former Canadien, Michael Ryder. After struggling during the 2010-11 regular season, Ryder gelled with Pouliot’s current line mates during the playoffs and raised his stock as an unrestricted free agent before signing with the Dallas Stars the same day Pouliot came to Boston.
Pouliot’s improvement has come a long way, and he has his fellow compadres – Peverley and Kelly – to thank.
“Obviously playing with Pevs [Peverley] and Kels [Kelly] makes my game a little easier,” Pouliot said. “They are two-way guys and they play well with the puck and I just try to make room for them. We stay on the same page. We talk a lot and right now our chemistry is pretty good.”
After his early struggles, Bruins coach Claude Julien has seen Pouliot settle in with his new squad.
“He’s adapted well to our hockey club as the seasons gone on,” said the ex-Habs coach. “We talked [to him] about being patient at the beginning of the year when a lot of people were probably writing him off. Right now he’s showing that he’s shown that he is very capable of playing on our club and doing a great job. He’s got four game-winners so far and he’s scored the opening goal the last two games and he got us going in the right direction.”
Julien and the organization are learning a little more about his game, and perhaps a reason why he was drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Wild back in 2005.
“I think it’s just not me, more than it’s the organization,” Julien said. “Our scouts that do the pro scouting and Peter and the rest of that group have obviously seen him. I knew him from watching him play, and I think everybody felt the same way. There was a lot of talent in that young player…and sometimes those guys just need the opportunity.
“We have a good group of players and we felt that if we get some consistency in this player that he would be a pretty good asset to our hockey club.”
In the past, Chiarelli’s acquisition of former Habs – Ryder and Julien – has paid dividends. Right now, Pouliot seems to be continuing that trend.