BOSTON – Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien has learned that the best way to shake trash-talking winger Brad Marchand out of a slump is to issue a verbal challenge of his own.
So, one year after Marchand boasted how he would score 20 goals and then backed it up with 21 in the 2010-11 regular season, Julien hinted to Marchand this week that his recent nine-game goal drought was hampering any attempt to repeat last season's success.
"He said something to me, I think it was yesterday. He said, ‘It looks like it's going to be a tough year to get 20 again' or something like that," Marchand said Thursday night, minutes after he scored two goals to help Boston beat Edmonton 6-3. "It was kind of a kick in the butt. So it was good to get a couple here, but it's still very early on in the year."
Marchand's pair of goals – which doubled his season total entering Thusday – made him the offensive star in the Bruins' fourth straight victory. He stole the show on a night meant for the anticipated showdown between Edmonton forward Taylor Hall and his Boston counterpart Tyler Seguin – the No. 1 and 2 overall selections in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Seguin won that personal battle, finishing with a goal and an assist to run his current points streak to five games. Hall finished with an assist, which snapped his three-game point drought. After the game Hall said he was more concerned not with personal rivalries but with his team's second loss in its last three outings.
"It's a game between the Oilers and the Bruins. I honestly didn't give it much thought unless you guys are asking me about it," said Hall about the matchup with Seguin. "But whenever you're matched up against someone you always want to do the best you can and try to play for your team, and that's what I tried to do tonight. Unfortunately it wasn't enough."
Another battle within the game was between both teams' No. 2 goaltenders, as Tuukka Rask started his second consecutive game for Boston and Devan Dubnyk occupied Edmonton's crease for the second time in three games. Rask stopped 27 of 30 shots, while Dubnyk made just 22 saves on 28 shots.
Rask has now won consecutive decisions for the first time since he won four in a row from Feb. 17 to Mar. 1, 2011.
"Well two wins for me, so that's unusual so far. So it's a good thing," said Rask, who has gone 2-0 since starting the season winless in three starts.
The young Oilers showed resolve after falling behind the defending Stanley Cup champs 2-0 in the first 8:55 of the game on goals from Johnny Boychuk and Jordan Caron.
After Oilers coach Tom Renney called for a timeout to stop the bleeding, the Oilers found some momentum and tied the score before the period was out. Ryan Smyth scored on a tip-in with 7:58 left before the intermission, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tied the score just 29 seconds later.
Just 3:50 into the second period, Marchand scored his first of the night on a tip-in of a Joe Corvo shot to put the Bruins ahead for good.
"Yeah, I mean, give them credit. They're obviously a great team and they're doing really good this season," said Nugent-Hopkins. "I mean, they're coming off the Cup win last year, they're going to have lots of confidence and stuff and they're the type of team that just kind of waits for you to make a mistake and once you do they just pounce on it."
Seguin's goal came off a fortuitous bounce, as his shoot-in deflected into the blue paint behind Dubnyk. Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert tried to clear it up the middle, but teammate Corey Potter deflected the puck back into his own net.
Smyth's second goal of the net cut the Boston lead back to one with 4:42 left in regulation, before Milan Lucic answered with a goal at 17:13. Marchand sealed the victory 44 seconds later with a snipe from the left hash mark into the far top corner.
Marchand's nine-game drought is over and the Bruins are back to .500 (7-7-0) on the season.
"It felt a lot longer than that. It was getting frustrating there," said the Bruins winger about his slump. "You want to produce. It was a little easier because we were still winning a bit. But you do want to help the team and you feel like you're letting them down when you're not doing your job out there, so it's nice to get a couple."