The Boston Bruins started the month of October losing three straight. They ended it in complete opposite fashion.
With their 3-1 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Halloween night, the Black and Gold have now won six of their last seven after starting the season 0-3-0. Their two-game sweep in the Sunshine State — including Friday’s 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers — puts the Bruins at a perfect 5-0-0 away from TD Garden.
Saturday’s victory over the Lightning also puts the Bruins in sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division, trailing only the red-hot Montreal Canadiens (10-2-0). Here are a few things we learned from the action at Amalie Arena last night.
For the second night in a row, B’s penalty kill came through in the clutch
Although the Bruins penalty kill did give up the only two goals on the power play during their Florida trip, they came through when it mattered the most.
Friday night in Sunrise, the B’s killed one of two 5-on-3 situations in the second period to keep the momentum on their side. The Black and Gold shorthanded unit sealed the victory by killing off Brad Marchand’s game misconduct for boarding late in the third.
Less than 24 hours later, the Bruins had another 5-on-3 to kill in a 1-1 tie in the second period. The Lightning had already struck on the power play thanks to Nikita Kucherov’s third of the season at 7:51 of the first to give his team a 1-0 lead. However, the Black and Gold, who allowed a pair of power play goals to the Bolts in the first meeting — including Steven Stamkos’ game-winner — were up to the task again as they made the kill in another clutch situation with Zdeno Chara in the box for the second half of Tampa’s two-man advantage.
Brett Connolly strikes against former team
Perhaps Peter Chiarelli would’ve still been the general manager of the Bruins had Brett Connolly not been injured immediately after being acquired from the Lightning at the trade deadline. But that’s in the past and all Connolly can do now is prove himself in Black and Gold. He continued to do that against his former team on Tuesday, scoring the game-winner at 5:54 of the third during a 5-on-3 power play off a beautiful goal-line feed from Marchand.
Since playing with Marchand — who added the empty-netter to seal the victory on Saturday — and Patrice Bergeron, Connolly has seen his production and ice time go up. The chemistry that he’s developed with Bergeron and Marchand in the last five games can only help Connolly, as he hopes to finally live up to that potential after being selected sixth overall by the Lightning in 2010.
Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak were bumped down
At the beginning of the second period, head coach Claude Julien tinkered with his lines again. With Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak struggling to get anything going, the ninth year bench boss placed the two youngsters with Zac Rinaldo on the fourth line. Chris Kelly was bumped up to Pastrnak’s spot on the first line with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson while Joonas Kemppainen took Spooner’s spot centering Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey on the third line.
With his spot on the first power play unit, Spooner saw a little more time, notching 10:40 time on ice and firing three shots on goal. Pastrnak, however, struggled to generate anything, getting off zero shots in 7:41 of ice time.
There’s no question that Pastrnak and Spooner both have the potential to be solid top-6 forwards in the league. The duo played well together last year when they shared a line with Milan Lucic from February to March during David Krejci’s injury. Perhaps it’s time for Julien to put the two together again as they try to correct their early season inconsistencies.
Another tough slate awaits
As important as this week was, Julien’s bunch will have to look even better with the next four-game slate. On Tuesday, they welcome former Bruin Tyler Seguin and the Central Division leading Dallas Stars to TD Garden. Then they hit the road again for three of their toughest tests to date.
That road trip begins Thursday as they travel to Washington DC in hopes of finally getting something past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who has not allowed a goal to the Bruins since March 29, 2014. Then it’s off to Montreal where the Black and Gold hope to break a five-game regular season losing streak against the hated Habs on Saturday before a quick turnaround to Brooklyn for another matchup against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on Sunday.
We’ll see if Julien and company have anything up their sleeves during this difficult four-game stretch.
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