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Acciari's Toughness Was on Full Display

Two days after puck to mouth, forward notches first multi-point game in B's win over Tampa

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Bruce Cassidy did not hold back when describing Noel Acciari's condition on Wednesday afternoon.

"Noel had extensive dental work done this morning," Cassidy said after Acciari missed practice to deal with the aftermath of a Brent Burns clear attempt to the mouth on Tuesday night against the Sharks.

"I don't believe there's anything long term, like jaw or anything broken, but there's some teeth that are all over the place, so we'll see how he is in the morning."

Even for a hockey player, having "teeth that are all over the place" to the point that "extensive dental work" is needed probably doesn't bode well for their chances of playing the following day.

As such, Cassidy was planning to be without his fourth-line center for the Bruins' showdown with the league-leading Lightning on Thursday night.

Ultimately, alternative preparations were not needed.

Acciari reported to the rink for pregame skate and declared himself ready to play, despite two missing teeth and stitches dotting both the upper and lower parts of his lip.

"No," the 27-year-old said when asked if he ever thought about not suiting up against Tampa. "I always anticipated on playing. I mean, I'm OK with pain so…"

So…let's just say Acciari is most definitely a hockey guy.

The Rhode Island native, donning a fish bowl-style face shield, played, perhaps, the best game of his career, notching a goal - the eventual winner with 8:13 to play - and an assist to lift the Bruins to a 4-1 victory over the Lightning and extend Boston's points streak to 15 games.

"He wants to play in these games," said Cassidy, whose club finished February at 11-0-2. "He's valuable in these types of games. We need him to be a hard guy to play against when they have that much skill, so he came through for us tonight."

Video: Acciari addresses media after 4-1 win against TBL

Acciari was a bull at both ends of the ice, landing a game-high five hits, while also firing four shots on goal - the second-highest total of his four-year career. The goal and assist, meanwhile, marked his first ever multi-point game.

"Especially in this group here, it takes a lot more than a puck to the mouth to keep a guy out of the game," said Brad Marchand, who picked up his 26th goal of the season. "You see what guys consistently play through here with broken bones and holes in their lungs and kidney stones and stuff like that…hockey players don't sit out because they have a sore thumb."

That toughness, grit, and energy is exactly why Boston's fourth line of Acciari, Sean Kuraly, and Chris Wagner is routinely called upon by Cassidy to start games - which was the case again on Thursday - and match up against the opposing team's top line.

"Coach has got a lot of confidence in us to get us out to a good start, and we just try to get the puck in deep and just kind of go to work like the line we are. We're strong on pucks and that's what we try to think of every night," said Acciari, who will require more dental work to finish patching up the damage to his chops once the swelling subsides.

After a number of high-end chances over the opening two periods, the trio finally broke through just past the midway point of the third period giving the Bruins a boost at just the right time.

With Kuraly having left the game earlier in the frame after taking a heavy hit behind the Tampa Bay net, Joakim Nordstrom slid down to take his spot and it was his heavy forecheck that helped set things in motion.

Nordstrom closed in on Lightning goalie Louis Domingue behind the net, forcing the backstop to rim the puck around the boards. Acciari, entering the zone fresh off a line change, pinched down the wall to knock the puck away from Nikita Kucherov and tap it over to Wagner, whose shot off of Domingue's pad ricocheted into the slot.

Acciari was there to bang home the rebound and give Boston a 2-0 advantage with 8:13 to play.

"I just picked the puck up off the wall, and gave it to Wags and Wags had a great shot low pad and it just happened to bounce right in front of me and I was able to tap it in," said Acciari, whose tally set off a span of three Bruins goals in 1:28 that extended their lead to 4-0.

Video: TBL@BOS: Acciari cleans up rebound in front

The second goal of that sequence came off the stick of Patrice Bergeron just 45 seconds after Acciari's marker, and it all began with another strong play by Acciari at the Bruins' blue line to knock the puck away from Brayden Point. Danton Heinen corralled the loose puck and got Boston moving back up the ice, where he eventually found Bergeron for the centerman's 22nd goal of the season.

"We knew if he was fine there was no doubt he was going to play," said Cassidy. "He's got the magic bubble on that seems to work for our players. All of a sudden instant offense, so we'll see if we can find a few more of those."

Cassidy was, of course, referring to Acciari's linemate Kuraly, who after suffering a broken nose on Dec. 9 in a fight with Ottawa's Ben Harpur, was forced to wear the "bubble" mask for the ensuing six weeks. During that time - a span of 19 games - Kuraly picked up five goals and five assists, including back-to-back game-winning tallies in Buffalo on Dec. 29 and at the Winter Classic against Chicago on New Year's Day.

"Sean was like, 'It's a lucky helmet - they're lucky bubbles, so good things will come,'" said Acciari. "And he was right."

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