BUFFALO - With 1.9 seconds left in regulation, Anders Bjork picked up his second point of the night with a game-winning, power play goal that gave the Bruins a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh on Friday at HarborCenter.
"To seal the deal with two seconds to go is something special, even though it's a rookie game," said Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach. "But that's the kind of play that kid can make, so it's nice to see."
Game 1 of the 2019 Prospects Challenge saw Pittsburgh jump to an early 2-0 lead, only for the Bruins to respond with a three-goal second period and a gritty showing by goaltender Kyle Keyser.
Penguins winger Nathan Legare knotted the score at 3-3 before the middle frame ended, but Bjork's last-minute goal off a feed from 2017 second-round draft pick Jack Studnicka (53rd overall) ended the tournament's opening game with a win for the Black & Gold.
"It was kind of a feeling-out process at the start, it's been a long time since all of us have played a game," said Studnicka. "But, yeah, I'm proud of the group in there. We went down two-nothing and battled back to get the win."
Bjork is Back
The winger proved to be the difference-maker on Friday night, collecting two points in the tournament opener - an assist on Studnicka's game-tying goal in the second period, and the other a power play, game-winning goal with 1.9 seconds left in regulation.
"He was a game-breaker. Probably the best player out there, in my opinion," said Leach. "You can tell he's worked on a little bit of his strength, and he's certainly electric with the puck. Had his wheels moving and he was a very effective player for us from start to finish."
Bjork, who's been in and out of the past two professional seasons due to injuries, was making his first game appearance in around eight months after sustaining a shoulder injury in January. The winger entered the tournament with 50 games worth of NHL experience, and was expected to make a strong showing in the tournament.
So far, Bjork has done just that and is trying to use the tournament to get back to that same level.
"I'm definitely glad to be here just because I haven't played games in so long," said Bjork. "Going right into NHL preseason games is a jump after eight or nine months off. I think that I'm fortunate to have this opportunity."
Video: Bjork speaks following Prospects Challenge
Three different B's score in second
Pittsburgh kickstarted the second period with a two-goal lead over the Bruins, but it only took 55 seconds for that narrative to change.
Jakub Lauko was quick to find twine, scoring Boston's first goal of the tournament less than a minute into the frame after capitalizing off assists from Bjork and 6-foot-2 defenseman Alexey Solovyev. And just over six minutes after notching their first goal, the Bruins found another as Studnicka beat Penguins goaltender Emil Larmi off a pass from Cameron Hughes at 7:03.
"I think everyone kind of got more comfortable as it went on," said Studnicka. "Like I said earlier, it's almost a feeling-out process. Almost all of those guys, it's been about four or five months since we've been in a game situation. I think I got more comfortable as the game went on and got my legs under me and started playing my game."
A tally from Providence College product Scott Conway with 1:30 left in the period gave the Bruins their first lead of the game, with Joona Koppanen and Cooper Zech each earning an assist on the goal.
Keyser makes 39 stops for the win
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound netminder stood tall between the pipes for the Bruins on Friday, stopping 39 of 42 shots from the Penguins for the win.
Keyser, who played most of the 2018-19 campaign with Oshawa of the OHL, finished last season with a 32-8-3 record. The goaltender earned a .915 save percentage and 3.16 goals against average through 47 games with the Generals.
Dan Vladar, a third-round draft pick in 2015, will switch places with Keyser for Saturday night's game against the Sabres.