Melrose native Conor Sheary received a pair of late Christmas gifts from the Boston Bruins after converting on a couple of turnovers to give the Capitals a 2-0 cushion in the first period. But it didn’t take long for the Bruins to deliver a bloody good response.
Brad Marchand set the tone after Nic Dowd made him bleed from the nose following a nasty high-sticking incident. The veteran winger tallied a goal and an assist on a 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power play late in the opening stanza to even things up after 20 minutes.
Smelling blood out of the locker room, Matt Grzelcyk put his team ahead for good with his second of the season a mere 2:51 into the middle stanza as part of the best statistical night of his career. Craig Smith’s one-timer on Curtis Lazar’s feed nearly five minutes later ended Zach Fucale’s night. The Bruins piled on with Marchand and David Pastrnak capping off their two-goal outings and Erik Haula netting his third of the season en route to a 7-3 rout at Capital One Arena.
Here’s what we learned from Monday’s blowout at the nation’s capital.
Grzelcyk turns over a career night
Any athlete will need to establish a short memory at certain points of a given season. Brandon Carlo and Linus Ullmark encountered that philosophy early after a miscommunication near the Boston net led to Sheary’s first of the night 3:02 in. So too did Grzelcyk following an errant feed to Bergeron toward the left faceoff dot led directly to Sheary’s second of the night exactly 9:30 later.
“I saw Bergy low. We were struggling bringing pucks out. So I kind of wanted to make a quick play and Bergy was yelling at me to try to go to the rim,” Grzelcyk said. “He was expecting that, and I just heard it too late and spotted them one right on the guy’s tape. So obviously not ideal to go down 2-0.”
Grzelcyk’s teammates came to his aid immediately. He shook off his miscue and turned it into a career night.
“I just wanted to get back to the ice as quick as possible,” Grzelcyk added. “It was an uncomfortable skate coming back to the bench when you made a big blunder there and cost the team. But we have great resilience in the room. Guys were telling me to keep my head up. I knew I had to play with confidence to get back in the game. We did a great job working to get back and capitalzed on a few power plays to tie it up at the end of the first, and the ball just kind of rolled from there.”
The Charlestown-born defenseman began his torrid performance with two power-play assists on Pastrnak’s 5-on-3 one-timer and Marchand’s 5-on-4 equalizer exactly 40 seconds apart late in the opening 20.
The Bruins went ahead for good on Grzelcyk’s wrist shot from the point early in the second period. Another pair of secondary assists on Haula’s marker at 13:09 of the second and Marchand’s second goal of the evening 10:59 into the final stanza capped off Grzelcyk’s career-high five-point night.
Grzelcyk, who entered Monday with just eight points to his credit (one goal, seven assists), didn’t just make personal history. He became the first Bruins defenseman to record a five-point night since the legendary Ray Bourque accomplished that feat against the Caps on Jan. 2, 1994.
“As it’s happening, you just kind of shake your head,” Grzelcyk said after becoming the fifth Boston blue-liner in franchise history to record five points in a game. “I was laughing during the game. I felt good about my game most of the year, and points have been hard to come by.”
The points found Grzelcyk on this night. And of course, he wasn’t the only shinning Bruin on this night.
Marchand’s leadership ‘bleeds’ through Bruins’ locker room
Marchand lived up to his nose-face killer moniker both figuratively and literally on Monday.
The Bruins slowly found their rhythm after the pair of costly first-period turnovers. But it took a blood-drawing high sticking infraction from Dowd on Marchand to open up a significant opportunity.
An initial 5-on-3 situation on the first half of Dowd’s double-minor went for naught after Bergeron commited intereference against Lars Eller along the blue-line upon a zone entry. But they found themselves with another two-man advantage following John Carlson’s cross-check on Erik Haula.
Still feeling the effects of his shattered nose, Marchand got the Bruins on track with his assist on Pastrnak’s one-timer and his equalizer on a slick wrist shot — deflecting off a Caps defenseman — in a 40-second span.
With their primary alternate captain leading the way, the Bruins never looked back.
“We know what he’s all about. We’ve seen in his compete level in practice, games, optional skate, morning skate…you name it. He’s a competitive guy when he puts he skates on,” Cassidy said of Marchand. “I think it demoralizes the other team a little bit. Their line did a good job on them earlier — that Dowd line. But we kept coming, and we’re able to get a 5-on-3 goal. I think it settled us down and got us back in the game, and then March’s goal goes off the stick. So good for us for sticking with the plan. It got us back in the game and we were pretty good after that.”
Marchand became one of six Bruins who tallied multi-point performances in the first Bruins-Caps matchup of the season. That particular group of six includes a new dynamic duo.
The Hall-Pastrnak connection provides another layer to Boston’s offense
Keeping tabs on his former team, David Krejci made the headlines over the last couple of days with some notable comments on Cassidy moving Pastrnak to the second line. Revisionist history provides an argument for both keeping Pastrnak with Bergeron and Marchand and moving him with Krejci in an attempt to balance out Boston’s scoring depth.
At this rate, it doesn’t matter who centers Hall and Pastrnak.
Cassidy pulled the trigger after the talented wingers developed initial chemistry on Boston’s top-line during Marchand’s three-game suspension. Now the Bruins have a formidable top-six with Smith finding his scoring touch again with Marchand and Bergeron and Haula producing timely offense with Hall and Pastrnak.
With a boost in confidence, Hall extended his point streak to six straight games with a pair of helpers. Pastrnak, meanwhile, has five goals in his last three games after failing the register a single tally in December.
“Pasta and I have a tendency to overpass or turn down shots,” Hall said. “But tonight, the puck seemed to get to the net at the right time.”
Surely, the Bruins could use a blue-line and top-six upgrade between now and the trade deadline. For now, they’ve found a decent offensive formula with the trickle-down effect of Cassidy’s lineup changes, highlighted by reuniting Hall and Pastrnak.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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