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Bruins Earn Much-Needed Win in Detroit with Best Game of Season

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

DETROIT - The Bruins needed a win.

They needed something positive, an ounce of that feeling of victory that had been lost since they squeaked out a win in the season opener on October 8.

They finally earned it on Wednesday night in Detroit, taking down the Red Wings 3-2 in the shootout, before quickly jetting off to Montreal to face the Canadiens in their home opener on Thursday.

It was a much-needed jolt.

"I thought we played a real good game," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame in Detroit. "It was a tough win, but a win I thought we deserved."

"You know, it's nice to see us come up with a win in probably the best game so far this year. We did a lot of good things."

Reilly Smith and David Krejci both scored in regulation, and then followed that up in the shootout. Smith's attempt past Jimmy Howard served as the winner.

"We definitely came out with a lot more energy, played our game more than we did in the last couple, so it was good," Smith said. "I think we showed we're a much better team than what we showed the last four games."

The Bruins had entered Wednesday night with a 1-3-0 record. The loss they put up in Detroit a week ago snowballed into three straight losses.

They came out firing right away, putting 14 shots on Howard in the first 20 minutes. By the time regulation and overtime were through, the Bruin had 39 shots on goal. Another nine missed the mark, and 17 more were blocked.

At the other end, Tuukka Rask gave his team a chance to win, stopping 18 of 20 shots. He believed it was the team's best game of the young season, by far.

"Yeah. Pretty solid 60," said Rask. "Came out running and we really skated hard and made some good passes and played a really good game."

Krejci, not in the lineup when the Bruins first faced Detroit this season, put Boston on the board just 5:12 into the opening frame.

Chris Kelly created a turnover in the neutral zone with a strong backcheck and quickly threaded a pass through center ice up to Krejci, who had just come on the ice during a line change. Krejci split the Wings' defense on a partial breakaway, made a quick move and fired it past Howard on his forehand.

Detroit tied the game at 1-1 less than four minutes later when a tough bounce off Kelly's stick on a breakout ended up on Tomas Tatar's stick and in the corner behind Rask. Dennis Seidenberg had gone down for the attempted block, partially screening Rask.

After Krejci's goal, the Bruins fired another 17 pucks on Howard, with more than a handful of high quality scoring chances, before the 18th finally made its way past him.

With 6:29 left in the second period, Smith put home his second goal of the season after a Patrice Bergeron wraparound perfectly set him up on the doorstep. Brad Marchand started it off by winning a battle down low.

"It's funny, because that's exactly how we were doing it in practice the last couple of days," smiled Smith. "So it figures that we score one like that, a dirty one, so it was nice just to be on the back end of it."

The Bruins had preached getting pucks on net, and scoring dirty, greasy, "ugly" goals for the past two days. They put their words to work.

"That's what we practiced [Tuesday] and we felt like that was lacking in our game, the way we put emphasis on that," said Rask. "And we showed that when we do those things - and they're little things, but they matter a lot - so today we did those and it paid off."

The Bruins didn't get frustrated when they weren't getting pucks past Howard.

"It wasn't an issue, because I liked the things the we did. We had some chances and we were doing the things we talked about doing," said Julien. "And that's what I said after the first period - that that was our best period of the season - and we had to make sure we played three of those periods, and things would go in for us."

"But I liked the fact that we had chances, guys were in front of the net, we were getting pucks to the net, as you see with the shot clock - I think a lot of that focus was on taking pucks to the net and that's the kind of team we have to be."

The Bruins also didn't get frustrated when Detroit tied it up 2-2 early in the third period after a questionable interference penalty on Adam McQuaid.

"It's a resilient group, I think we showed that last year, so it's nice that we're getting back to it," said Smith.

Howard continued his heroics right until the end of regulation.

In the final minute, the Wings' netminder stretched out to get a left toe on a Dougie Hamilton bid in front, before scrambling to fight off a backhand chance from Simon Gagne with his glove.

"I thought about it, it was almost too nice to be true I guess," smiled Gagne, who was playing in his first NHL game since April 27, 2013 (and the 800th of his career) after signing a one-year contract with Boston. "The last minute of the game - Looch brought the puck to the net, Dougie took a pretty good shot and Howard was pretty much down to the ice and I had an open net."

Gagne is no stranger to clutch goals.

"I took my time to put it up there and he brought his glove at the last second, so I thought about it for a second, that that could be the game-winner, but we'll keep it for another day," he said.

"We got the win, that's the important [part], get back on the right track and we'll keep it for another time."

Gagne started the game on the fourth line with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner. He moved up to play with Krejci and Milan Lucic towards the end of the third period, when Julien cut down his lineup to three veteran lines.

"I just wanted a little bit more experience," said Julien. "We've been snake-bitten a little bit lately. I wanted us to win this game - it was important for us, so we did what we had to do."

"I think I saw it was [Gagne's] first game since April of 2013, so obviously having that much time off, it's pretty tough to get into the groove of things, but as the game went on, he played well, had a great chance there in the final minute," said Lucic.

"I think just his experience - he's got a lot of playoff experience, he's scored a lot of big goals in his career and he knows how to play in big games and he knows how to play the right way, so hopefully he can get better and better as the season goes on."

The Bruins had a brief scare late in the second period, when Bergeron blocked a wind-up from Danny DeKeyser on the penalty kill. He shook it off and was back out to take the opening faceoff of the third period.

"It's a stinger - you know, you get it off the foot there and you always fear the worst," said Julien. "I'm sure it's not feeling good right now, but it wasn't bad enough that you weren't going to see him come back."

The Bruins next continue their three game road trip against the Canadiens in Montreal on Thursday night.

"You see when we play determined to win, and when we focus on just playing a hard, heavy game, it gives us success," said Lucic. "So we have to have the same mindset going into [Thursday] night."

"We know we're heading into Montreal, home opener, they beat us last year in the playoffs," he rattled off. "But we can't think about that - we just have to think about going there and winning ourselves a hockey game and coming out successful out of this road trip."

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