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  • What we learned: Bruins bounce back and avoid a case of the Blues

    Tim Rosenthal January 18, 2019
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    The Bruins needed a bounce-back effort after they unraveled in their loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia just 24 hours prior.

    They got just that against a red-hot St. Louis Blues squad that entered Thursday with a 4-1-1 mark in their prior six.

    Bruce Cassidy’s squad relinquished another lead after scoring first on Torey Krug’s fifth goal of the season. But they overcame their defensive issues and got timely goals from David Backes’ tip-in, Chris Wagner’s highlight reel breakaway, Brad Marchand’s insurance marker and Sean Kuraly’s empty netter after Ryan O’Reilly and Carl Gunnarsson gave the Blues the 2-1 lead.

    “It was a big game for us. The week hasn’t been what we would’ve hoped,” Marchand said after the Bruins snapped their two-game skid Thursday night at TD Garden. “We’ve been playing good hockey, but we’re not getting the results that we need right now. But tonight was a big game — a bounce-back game on a back-to-back.”

    Here is what we learned from Boston’s 5-2 triumph over St. Louis.

    Tuukka Rask is one win away from surpassing Tiny Thompson

    Rask’s early season struggles are behind him as he’s slowly but surely reclaimed the No. 1 netminder spot after Jaroslav Halak’s hot start.

    The journeyman Halak is going through his worst stretch of the season that included the disastrous outing in Philly where he allowed four goals on 18 shots. Rask, on the other hand, improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts following a 28-save effort Thursday night.

    Rask’s latest win put him in elite company. The veteran now sits tied with Tiny Thompson atop the franchise’s all-time wins list at 252.

    “Yeah, I mean it’s an original six franchise. I’ve had the luxury to be here for many, many years,” Rask said about the achievement postgame. “So obviously it means a lot but, many more to come hopefully.”

    If only social media and sports talk radio was around during Thompson’s days. Alas, Rask, despite the noise from the ‘hot take machine’, will soon call himself the all-time winningest goalie in Bruins history. That honor could come Saturday when the Bruins host the Rangers in their final game before their bye week.

    Zdeno Chara sets the tone with a fight and an assist

    Pat Maroon found out the hard way about not poking Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 captain took down the Blues forward and former Edmonton Oiler late in the first period as the two exchanged fists for the second time in their career.

    “You know, he’s a physical guy, he’s a big guy, and he forechecks hard,” Chara said about his bout with Maroon. “It was just one of those things that, he was doing his job and he was doing it well.”

    It took a little while, but the Bruins got a spark from that bout after Krug fired his fifth of the season on a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from David Krejci to give his team a 1-0 lead at 3:31 of the second period.

    Trailing 2-1 after O’Reilly and Gunnarson’s tallies 9:13 apart, Chara came through in a big moment again.

    Filling in for Matt Grzelcyk (healthy scratch) on the second power play unit, the 41-year-old found time and space to blast a shot from the point just as the man advantage expired. Backes, the former Blues captain, tipped Chara’s shot just as he got tripped up and notched his fifth of the season to give the Bruins a much-needed equalizer.

    “You’re trying to not take it in the face, first of all, and if you can get a piece of it to change directions,” Backes said about tipping Chara’s slap shot. “With his velocity, it’s got a chance. While I’m on the ground, looked, and it was in the net and that was a good feeling to get the game tied and have a chance to get two points tonight.”

    New look fourth line comes through in the clutch

    The fourth line trio of Wagner, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari — aka the ‘WAK line’ — have been one of Boston’s better lines of late. So why tinker with a good thing if your Cassidy, right?

    Well, he did. He inserted Backes into the lineup after a healthy scratch Wednesday night. The power forward filled in nicely for Acciari and both Wagner and Kuraly kept delivering in the clutch.

    Wagner took his turn with the heroics on Thursday on a beautiful breakaway tally off a Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson feed — leaving St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo in the dust — for the go-ahead tally.

    “Yeah, I kind of got lucky there,” Wagner said about his sixth goal of the season. “I got by Pietrangelo but I made a pretty good move out of nowhere, I guess and it worked out.

    The Walpole native fanned on an empty-netter minutes later. But Kuraly backed him up to seal the three-goal win and share a few laughs with his fellow teammates.

    “It happens to everyone,” David Krejci said with a laugh.

    Peter Cehlarik making the most out of his second line audition

    Speaking of Krejci, the Czech centerman and Jake DeBrusk have a viable winger to work with on the second line.

    The Bruins had to go to the farm to find that second line plug, and Peter Cehlarik is providing just that during his third stint in Boston. The P-Bruins leading scorer brought his A-game up I-95 and followed up his two-goal effort in Philly with his first assist of the season.

    But it wasn’t the secondary assist from Cehlarik on Krug’s tally that had Cassidy talking, but rather his play away from the puck that helped set up Backes’ fifth of the season.

    “I just think he’s winning – even the Backes goal. It’s a 50/50 puck against a big body. He gets there first. Ties up, Krech [Krejci] follows, so now you’re winning puck battles. It’s a big part of hockey, to me,” Cassidy said.

    “We’ve been trying to instill some of those habits into some of our younger guys for a long time, to get there and stay there. He’s a bigger body and little more mature. So he can take the [body] and hold his ground, I guess, for a better term.”

    Well he’s more than held his own with Krejci and DeBrusk. The threesome have quite the chemistry going just two games in.

    The Bruins still need an upgrade in the middle of the lineup between now and the Feb. 25 trade deadline. But Cehlarik’s instant chemistry with DeBrusk and Krejci is at least closing the revolving second line door for the time being

    “Yeah, I’ve been feeling good. It’s a lot of fun to play with such great players. Fun to play on the puck, and make good plays, and take care of our end as well,” Cehlarik said about his first two games with Krejci and DeBrusk. “But I think we did that for the most part and bury the chances.”

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