BOSTON - The Bruins returned home two weeks ago for a stretch of six straight games at TD Garden facing a daunting task.
Boston was integrating four new players acquired at the trade deadline, all while dealing with the loss of Patrice Bergeron - their leading scorer at the time - to a fractured right foot. As the homestand progressed, the Bruins also lost the services of Charlie McAvoy (sprained MCL) and David Backes (suspension).
The team falling into a rough patch would not have been a surprise.
But as they have all season long, the Bruins battled through the adversity. Facing a one-goal deficit entering the third on Saturday afternoon, the Bruins stormed back for four third-period goals - three of which came on the power play - to secure a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and cap off a perfect 6-0 homestand, becoming just the seventh team in NHL history to accomplish that feat.
"We talked about our will to win, how it's been there this week and this home stand…and all year," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I thought we had it in pockets, but theirs was greater than ours, I thought, through two periods. We were OK, and that's what the result was looking like: we'd just be okay. So, it's kind of - the ball is in our court if we want to push, and we did."
Video: Balanced offense powers Bruins past Blackhawks, 7-4
The comeback was ignited when David Pastrnak crashed the net and jammed home a Brad Marchand rebound to knot the score at 4 just 6:23 into the third. But Boston went full throttle some 90 seconds later after Sean Kuraly drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty.
The Bruins connected for two goals on the power play - in total, they scored three goals in 2:55 - to open up a 6-4 advantage. Boston took the lead for good on Brian Gionta's tally from the net front, which gave him six points in his first five games in Black & Gold.
After twice keeping the puck in with lunging plays at the blue line, Nick Holden fed Matt Grzelcyk for a one-timer, which Jake DeBrusk (three assists) redirected over to Gionta on the doorstep. The 39-year-old followed up by banking the puck into an empty net.
"I think our power play did a good job moving the puck, tiring them out a little bit and obviously they didn't get as much on the clear as they'd like," said Holden, who has an assist in all four games he's played with the Bruins. "I think it was big to keep those [pucks] in and keep our PP going."
Video: CHI@BOS: Gionta cashes in on rebound for PPG
Boston extended its lead just 1:16 later when Rick Nash tapped home a Torey Krug feed for his third goal with the Bruins. On the day, Boston registered four power-play goals on six opportunities, with three coming from the second power-play unit (two from David Krejci and one from Gionta).
"It might be 1-A and 1-B now," Cassidy said of his power-play units. "Since Gionta's been moved to the front of the net on that group and Holden's come - a little more of a shot-tip type of mentality. We've moved Krech and DeBrusk…it's been good for us. But, no matter what the setup is, you've got to win pucks back…tire them out, make a play because you've got skill, and that's what happened."
The Bruins had a fifth goal on special teams when Noel Acciari followed up a Sean Kuraly shorthanded breakaway attempt and ripped home his eighth goal of the season to open the scoring at 11:27 of the first.
Video: CHI@BOS: Nash caps off nice passing play with PPG
DeBrusk has been on a tear of late, racking up nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last eight games, including his three power-play assists against Chicago. The rookie connected twice with Krejci, first on a cross-ice feed in the first period and then on a nifty backhand dish midway through the second.
"Great plays. He's a good player. A good player makes passes and that's why he's on the power play because he can make plays," said Krejci. "Those are passes you dream of - you just kind of get it in the perfect spot and you're only facing the goalie or an open net. Those are fun."
DeBrusk picked up his final helper on Gionta's winner in the third.
"The whole year I've just been trying to build," said DeBrusk. "But at the same time, I've always been a second-half player. I don't know why, but just seems to click, so just trying to keep it going and understand how valuable it is to be out there and who I'm playing with."
Video: CHI@BOS: Krejci finishes DeBrusk's feed for PPG
Marchand, Duclair Collide
Midway through the first period, Marchand and Chicago forward Anthony Duclair were involved in an awkward collision just inside the Bruins blue line. Marchand was assessed a minor penalty for interference, while Duclair left the game with an apparent knee injury.
The Bruins winger did not believe the play would warrant any supplemental discipline from the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
"I was coming up ice and I think he was coming down the forecheck and we both got caught in the train tracks and we both didn't know which direction to go, but we just kind of tried to avoid each other," said Marchand. "I think it's really unfortunate, I think he twisted up his foot or something, that's tough to see."
Marchand picked up two assists in the contest, extending his points streak to five games (5-7-12). He has 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in his last 24 games.
Kuraly Goes Gordie
Kuraly picked up his first career Gordie Howe hat trick with an assist on Acciari's first-period goal, a fight with John Hayden later in the first, and an empty-net tally with 22 seconds to play.
"No," Kuraly said with a laugh when asked if he ever saw Howe play. "But I know a lot about him."
Video: CHI@BOS: Kuraly seals Bruins' win with empty-net goal