The Boston Bruins improved to 14-2-0 following Sunday’s win over the Vancouver Canucks. Amid their 5-2 victory, the Bruins received significant scoring output from the defensive core as they combined for six points.
Connor Clifton set the tone for Boston’s D in the opening frame after blasting a one-timer past Thatcher Demko following a brilliant keep-in from Hamups Lindholm and a skating clinic from Taylor Hall.
Lindholm added another pair of assists on Patrice Bergeron’s power-play blast late in the first — for Bergeron’s 997th career NHL point — and on Pavel Zacha’s one-timer in a 4-on-4 situation at 11:19 of the second frame.
Jim Montgomery watched as his team entered cruise control. But the first-year Boston bench boss found time to tweak his power play after inserting Charlie McAvoy to the top unit following an extended run using five forwards. After watching his team relinquish some breakaway attempts on the man advantage, Montgomery’s move paid off on Brad Marchand’s late second-period tally.
Boston encountered a few mishaps on the night, beginning with J.T. Miller’s breakaway marker on the power play to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period. They let their guard down a bit in the third after allowing Sheldon Dries to notch his third goal of the year on a bad-angle shot to cut the B’s lead to 4-2 early in the final frame.
Tomas Nosek shut the door on a comeback bid after notching his first goal in 315 days with the empty net tally on Vancouver’s final power play attempt of the evening.
The Bruins will get a well-deserved breather before hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. In the meantime, here’s what we learned after they improved to 9-0-0 on TD Garden ice.
Tomas Nosek had a night of firsts.
The Bruins signed Nosek a year ago to add some versatility to their bottom six.
Since his arrival, the Bruins used Nosek as a valuable complimentary piece on the penalty kill and trotted him out for pivotal faceoff situations. But they also envisioned Nosek providing more secondary scoring, even in a fourth-line role.
Where he struggles with offensive production, Nosek makes up for that missing piece with his high-energy and checking traits. Yet, in a somewhat surprising development, Nosek hadn’t dropped the gloves in his NHL career. That changed Sunday after challenging Kyle Burroughs to a scrap shortly after the Canucks defenseman delivered a timely hit to David Pastrnak.
Nosek received an instigator minor on top of his five-minute major for fighting. Boston’s shorthanded unit failed to kill off the Noesk penalty, allowing Miller to tally his ninth goal of the season.
Even after Burroughs’ clean hit, the Bruins remained appreciative of Nosek standing up for his teammate.
“Just stepping up for his teammate there,” Bergeron said, “it’s all something we recognize as teammates.”
Nosek began the night with his first career fight. A.J. Greer followed Nosek’s suit in his return to the lineup, agitating Vasily Podklozin into a bout of fist-a-cuffs.
Greer and company watched on as Nosek fittingly ended it with his long-distance empty-netter to break his lengthy 10-month goal drought.
“It felt really good; I’m not going to lie,” Nosek said. “It was a long time. But it’s over now. I’m happy, and I keep focusing on the games now. That feeling on when it’s going to come… I’m glad it’s over, and I can just focus on the games now.”
Once again, Montgomery and the coaching staff used five forwards on the top power-play unit for the first few attempts. An idea born out of necessity during McAvoy’s absence became a thing of the past come the second period after the Bruins relinquished their share of breakaways and odd-man rushes against the Canucks.
On their second to final power play attempt, the Bruins promoted McAvoy as the top-unit point man, prompting Jake DeBrusk to move to the secondary unit. Another switch came on the ensuing chance, with DeBrusk taking the net-front spot in place of David Krejci.
Amid their struggles, the power play still had a productive night with a 2-for-6 performance. They saved their best-looking attempt for last as McAvoy provided a secondary assist on Marchand’s wrister to give the B’s a 4-1 lead late in the middle stanza.
“I thought Vancouver was doing a good job at pressing us high, and they were getting real good looks on the penalty kill, so we decided to put a defenseman back there,” Montgomery said. “We have two defensemen that can run power plays really well in Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm. Being able to get one defenseman and four forwards on each unit is eventually what’s going to give us success long term.
The Bruins relied on another stout performance from Linus Ullmark whenever they encountered a hiccup on the power play and at even strength. But one of his 29 stops had the Hub buzzing.
Ullmark provided a save-of-the-year candidate.
With a comfortable cushion, the Bruins encountered a bit of a lull in the third period. Ullmark made sure their lead remained intact during his busiest stretch of the night, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the final 20.
His best stop came well before that.
With the Bruins ahead 2-1 early in the second, Ullmark somehow made a toe save on Ilya Mikehiv on the far side post of the goal line. While the Canucks forward couldn’t quite corral the puck for a cleaner attempt, the Bruins netminder made the stop on a last-ditch effort to keep the lead intact.
“I was wondering how that [didn’t go in],” Montgomery said with a laugh. “The guys [on the bench] were like, ‘how did he stop that?'”
A combination of skill and luck led Ullmark to that potential save of the year. Make no mistake, however. Ullmark’s early success is no fluke.
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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