Their previous four man advantages had gone for naught.
With 3:24 left in regulation, Patrice Bergeron fired home his 24th goal of the season to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
The week ahead won’t be easy for the Bruins, with two of the league’s best teams — the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals — coming into town on Thursday and Saturday to finish out a four-game homestand.
The points at TD Garden on Tuesday night were crucial, especially against a team currently out of the playoff picture.
“We thought about how big the points are and after the trade deadline, this is the team and this is who we are going with,” said Bergeron. “You have to find a way to gel quickly and I thought it was one of those steps forward where tonight was an important game for us.”
“We know that it’s a tough schedule coming up and it was good for the new guys to have their first game under their belt right away at home. They can now look forward.”
The new additions included trade acquisitions Lee Stempniak, who played on Bergeron’s right wing, and defenseman John-Michael Liles, who helped push the pace from the back end. Noel Acciari also made his NHL debut, playing on the fourth line with Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly.
With the team in place for the stretch run, points like the ones against Calgary — no matter how they are earned — matter.
Sitting in the Wild Card spot in the East entering Tuesday night’s action, the Black & Gold were able to momentarily jump Detroit for the third place spot in the Atlantic Division with 76 points.
Detroit (75 points) and Tampa Bay (78) were off on Tuesday. With a win, Florida kept a hold of first place in the division with 80 points.
“It’s big points that we need,” said Bergeron. “I thought we didn’t generate enough shots early on and in the third, it was way better. We could see and tell that we were more assertive with our plays and making better decisions and putting more pucks on net.”
“It was something that we talked about before the game — we know how hard the schedule is coming up and how important and how tight the standings are.”
Bergeron’s goal helped boost the confidence of the power play, which has been generating chances, but hasn’t producing at the pace it was earlier in the season.
“It was huge for us,” said Krug, who was on the ice for Bergeron’s goal. “I thought lately we’ve been having the opportunities and chances, but part of a power play is making sure that we’re bearing down and scoring on those chances, so I thought to finally get one helped.”
“I thought we had a couple of different looks, guys in different spots and I thought at the end of the day, it really benefited with Spoons making that great play to Bergy.”
Krug pushed the puck up the boards, with David Krejci sending a feed inside the blueline to Ryan Spooner at the top of the right circle. Spooner whipped a quick touch pass to Bergeron in the high slot for the fire.
“When things go stale, I think it’s about movement,” said Krug. “I think early on we had a lot more movement than maybe we have been lately. We can’t be content with just getting the chances. Tonight, it was a big goal by Bergy.”
Despite a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Bruins weren’t able to generate much sustained offense moving forward, with just three shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the second period.
“We just talked about it — I think we had 13 shots or something like that, which is not enough,” Spooner said, of the focus after 40 minutes. “So, just tried to shoot a bit more and it seemed to work.”
The Bruins put together a much better third period.
“I thought that we could have competed a little harder,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “I think the pace of our game wasn’t bad — the puck definitely moved better tonight from the back end there. We had some chances where we either missed the net or fanned on the shot so that kind of tilted things a little bit in the wrong direction but I thought we could have played harder.”
“For two periods, they were grittier and we weren’t as involved in that area as I would have liked to and because of that, it just made it a 1-0 game. So, thankfully our power play came through in the end and we were able to score a real important goal.”
Despite not putting together their best two periods to start, the Bruins’ defensive game was much improved from their previous outings.
“It reminded me of a few years back when we used to give up 20, 30 shots and not 20 scoring chances,” said Tuukka Rask, who stopped 24 of 35 shots in the win. “We kept it tight.”
“Obviously, the other team’s going to get some chances, but for the most part, we limited them pretty good and didn’t make too many mistakes in our own end and it was a tight game.”
The team had a strong two-way effort, including the new additions.
“They were good,” Julien said of Stempniak and Liles. “You’ve seen the guys that we got in the trade but I thought Noel [Acciari] himself, I thought he handled himself real well, very responsible and very gritty and seemed to be in the right place for the most part.”
“I thought he handled himself well for a guy in his first game.”
Acciari was on the ice for the Bruins’ first goal of the game, when Ferraro fired in his fifth of the season at 7:05 into the opening frame.
It marked the line’s first shift of the game, since the Bruins had to start out the first period killing a penalty.
“It was big. We were sitting there for a while with everything going on and it was our first shift and to get that one out of the way was nice,” said Ferraro, who sped into the zone on a line change and ripped home a feed from Krug after strong board work from Connolly. “I thought we had a lot of speed and we were playing pretty well. So we were happy with it.”
“Well, it didn’t take them long to get that first goal right?” Julien said of that line’s effort. “They stepped on the ice and it was in the net. So I think we’ve got two guys there with some experience… and Noel’s very reliable so I thought that line handled themselves well.”
“It’s just a dream come true,” said Acciari, who finished the night with 8:31 in ice time (including 1:33 on the penalty kill), a shot on goal and two hits. “You know, going into it, I just tried to play my game and do anything I could to help the team out.”
The Bruins could take a breath after the trade deadline, and realize the group they now have for the final push.
But with 18 games left and a tough schedule ahead, there will be no time for pauses moving forward.
“Every game’s very important from here on end and obviously we want to play good and keep improving our game and get the wins,” said Rask. “Because it’s definitely not going to get any easier.”