They would also be the last, as Brad Marchand capped off a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes with an empty-netter that saw his father getting a round of high fives from the others on the Bruins Fathers Trip.
Matt Beleskey added two goals, including the game-winner, as he continues to generate chemistry with linemates Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes. His father, grandfather and grandmother were in attendance.
Patrice Bergeron scored the first goal of the night — in his 800th NHL game. His grandfather handed him the puck commemorating the milestone after the game.
“It was fun to have my grandpa here for the last few days and it’s a special moment,” said Bergeron. “He’s been a big role model for me growing up and I’m sure he’s as happy as I am to spend some time with him, so it’s been a lot of fun.”
Bergeron’s 23rd goal of the season put the Bruins up 1-0 with 9:34 left the first period.
Brett Connolly caused a turnover with a strong forecheck and Bergeron was there to chip the puck up and over Canes netminder Cam Ward.
“It was a big game for us — we needed those two points,” said Bergeron. “I thought that we had a good start and were making some good plays but getting that goals and getting the guys going is definitely something you want to do, especially on the road.”
Bergeron was honored to share the milestone night with his grandfather.
“It’s kind of — almost surreal,” Bergeron said of suiting up in Game No. 800. “You don’t really think about it too much — all you want to do as an 18-year-old is make your way up and kind of make it and after that, you kind of think about the games when you get older, but it’s something special, I definitely try to appreciate and enjoy it every time I step on the ice. It’s been a fun run.”
“He just continues to hit mark after mark and he continues to improve his game and want to be better,” said Marchand. “So it’s been an honor playing beside him for the last few years.”
Just 2:12 later, Beleskey put in his first of the night to make give Boston a two-goal cushion in the opening frame. The winger started his rush in the defensive zone, banked the puck off the boards and around Carolina defender Michal Jordan before snapping it in top shelf for his 12th of the season. Torey Krug picked up the assist.
“It’s always nice when they start coming like that,” said Beleskey, who scored in front of his father, grandfather and grandmother. “You just keep working hard, keep doing the same things and hopefully it’s going to pay off and right now, it is.”
Tuukka Rask had to be strong for the Bruins in the opening minutes, bringing out faint “Tuuuuuukk” chants from the crowd (and likely from Rask’s father, in the crowd along with the rest of his teammates’ fathers).
Rask saved all 12 shots he faced in the first period, including two shots on Carolina’s lone power play of the frame and a strong bid from Jeff Skinner after a turnover in Boston’s zone. He followed that up with 10 saves in the second period. Rask estimated he faced about 15 scoring chances.
“But we’re not breaking down as bad as we used to,” said Rask. “So we’re making some mistakes and spending some time in our own end, but we’re being more compact and more calm and that’s helped me see the puck and control the puck, so that’s why we’re not getting scored on.”
The Bruins generated pressure at times during the middle frame, especially from the line of Bergeron, Connolly and Brad Marchand. The Canes also gave them trouble at times, and giveaways by the Bruins led to sustained time in their zone.
Heading into the third period with a 2-0, Boston needed to focus on keeping it simple, managing the puck and not allowing odd-man rushes.
With the Hurricanes fighting to get into a playoff spot, they weren’t going to let up.
Carolina ruined the shutout and made it a one-goal game with a power play tally exactly 3:00 into the third.
Noah Hanifin’s drive from up top bounces right off the end boards, hit Kevan Miller’s stick as he was attempting to swat it away and spun in behind Rask. It came on the Hurricanes’ 27th shot of the night.
Beleskey and his linemates didn’t waste much time in regaining the two-goal cushion, putting Boston up 3-1 just 3:24 after Carolina scored.
Hard forechecking by Spooner and Hayes helped set up the goal, with Spooner sending a perfect feed to Beleskey in the slot for his 13th of the season and his fifth goal in his past four games.
“Arguably probably our best line tonight,” said Julien. “Spooner and Hayes and Beleskey, they really worked hard, they had great chances and I thought as a line, it was one of their better nights together, so hopefully that’s chemistry building and probably confidence as well, and if we have that, it gives us that much more of a weapon to counter against other teams.”
“If you look at the top teams in the league, it’s all about depth, right?” said Spooner. “There’s been times during the year when we’ve had to rely on the top two [lines] for the scoring and that’s just not going to cut it, so it’s ideal to have four, so I think it’s been good the last little bit.”
“We’re a line that’s going to have to continue to play well here down the stretch to help our team every night,” said Hayes. “There’s two other good players on our line and we’ve got be hard and heavy and let Spooner make some space and create some plays like he did.”
It’s been fun for Hayes to see his linemate finally getting rewarded.
“Yeah, I told him, goals will come in bunches like bananas here and he’s starting to do it,” smiled Hayes. “So he just has to continue to go to the net and finish off plays like he’s doing.”
Boston was outshot 28-11 through the final two periods and 18-5 in the third, but still pull out the commanding 4-1 win.
Rask kept bringing out “Tuuuuuuuukk” chants from a largely Black & Gold crowd.
On the penalty kill in the third period, the Bruins netminder had to stop Canes captain Eric Staal from jamming the puck in on the doorstep after he batted it out of the air.
Rask had to follow that up with a sequence of saves on Kris Versteeg before Carolina’s power play came to an end.
“We’ve given up a lot of shots in the last couple of games here, but he’s been standing on his head, giving us a chance to win every night,” Hayes said of Rask. “He’s on top of his game right now.”
Just as the drawn out cheer for the goaltender rang out inside PNC Arena, the “Let’s Go Bru-ins” chant returned — and it was even more thunderous than the one that followed shortly after puck drop.
It wasn’t just coming from the Bruins’ special cheering section for the night, though they had plenty to cheer about.
“They brought us some luck here, so it’s nice and you always want to win with your dad in the crowd,” smiled Hayes. “It’s nice for our team to get a big win like that.”
In the past two games, the Bruins have put up a combined nine goals and allowed just two, despite not quite finding that elusive 60-minute game that they have been trying to master.
Most of the fathers and family members are sticking around Boston for Sunday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are tied at 74 points with the Bruins.
“I’m not disappointed here — we won a big game against a team that was pretty desperate to try and climb back and try and get themselves closer to a playoff spot,” said Julien. “So you’ve got to recognize that, but at the same time, you’ve got to be realistic and I need our team to be a little better without the puck, so it’s something that we can continue to work on here.”