Over the last decade, the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars provided quality and entertaining hockey in their head to head matchups. Things were no different on Thursday in a rather wild night TD Garden.
Nick Ritchie notched his first goal in his new home and David Krejci became Boston’s newest enforcer as the Bruins snapped their two-game skid with a 4-3 win over the Stars.
The Bruins fell behind 1-0 — by way of a Jamie Benn deflection — before scoring three unanswered goals starting with Charlie Coyle’s tally out of mid-air late in the opening stanza.
The Bruins carried that momentum into the second after Krejci dropped the gloves with Joe Pavelski. Bruce Cassidy’s squad built off of Krejci’s first fight since Feb. 2011 and added another pair of tallies from Ritchie and Brad Marchand to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
Denis Gurianov’s deflection in the early stages of the third period cut Boston’s deficit in half. The Bruins answered quickly after David Pastrnak netted his league-leading 46th goal of the season.
Miro Heiskanen cut Boston’s lead to 4-3 late in regulation after Zdeno Chara accidentally knocked the puck into his own net following a stellar save from Jaroslav Halak. But the Bruins prevented the late comeback bid from Tyler Seguin and company to secure two important points.
“There were a lot of missed opportunities it seemed like for two good, defensive teams. I mean, it was a hard game,” Cassidy said afterward. “From the ice level, guys were playing hard and battling hard and some big bodies out there and some good pace. It was a good hockey game both ways; I’m just glad we came out on the right end of it.”
Here’s what we learned as the league-leading Bruins extended their lead to seven points over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Krejci’s bout with Pavelski sparks turning point
The Boston Bruins might not have won this game if not for Krejci.
Cassidy provided Krejci with two new wingers on Saturday in Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, who made his Boston debut.
They had never played together in an NHL game before and barely practiced for more than an hour. Cassidy handed Krejci the keys to a car with no tires and told him to drive.
And Krejci delivered. With the score tied 1-1, Krejci finally had enough of Pavelski’s antics and took matters into his own hands, both figuratively and literally, to give his team a much-needed boost.
“It was just one of those things,” Krejci said about the fight. “I felt like he was over the line towards me so I just tried to settle it man to man.
It was quite odd watching the 34-year-old unleash haymakers like Deontay Wilder. Yet Krejci’s rare bout came at the right time. The Bruins scored twice in under two minutes following his bout with Pavelski to put them ahead for good.
“It’s nice to see the guys respond,” Krejci added. “That was a big win.”
Ondrej Kase had a quiet debut
Kase arrived in Boston earlier this week after Don Sweeney acquired him for David Backes (with the Bruins retaining 25 percent of his remaining salary), defensive prospect Axel Andersson and a first-round pick in June’s Entry Draft. The Czech winger finally made his debut on Thursday and appeared in an NHL lineup for the first time since Feb. 7.
There wasn’t much to write home about for Kase. It was clear that his timing was off after suiting up for the first time in nearly three weeks.
“Ondrej looked like he hadn’t played in a while, was trying to find his groove there a little bit. A little bit rusty,” Cassidy said about the winger.
Kase was Boston’s deadline solution to the problem that has ailed them on Krejci’s right side over the last few years. He didn’t provide much of anything on Thursday, but of course, one game only provides a small sample size.
We did learn a few things about Kase, who still has plenty of time to turn things around. He already has some verbal chemistry with a fellow countryman in Krejci. His quickness and shooting ability fit the Bruins’ top-six needs.
Kase will need to back up those traits with results because the last thing the Bruins need heading into the playoffs questions surrounding the right-wing spot on the second line.
The new-look lineup was off
With Kase’s debut, Cassidy had his first real chance to experiment with his lineup following the trade deadline additions of Kase and Ritchie.
With Krejci centering the two newcomers from Anaheim, Cassidy moved Jake DeBrusk — a second line staple for the past two and a half years — to the third line with Coyle and Anders Bjork.
There was something off about the second and third lines even with the winning effort. Cassidy admitted to liking the DeBrusk-Coyle and Ritchie-Krejci pairings, but that’s part of the problem. They’re pairings, not lines.
It’s hard to see the new-look second and third lines sticking together come playoff time. We won’t know if Kase and Ritchie are top-six answers, but we do know that Cassidy will keep tinkering his lineup for the rest of the regular season.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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