"Commitment," Head Coach Claude Julien had said pregame. "We need to be a little bit harder and more committed. Do the things that we have to do to win hockey games. It’s not so much one area where we’re weak - it’s just our game as a whole. We need to be hungrier."
The Black and Gold responded with a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, bouncing back from their 6-2 loss in Columbus on Saturday.
"I think it was pretty obvious tonight that there was a bigger determination and commitment to working hard from start to finish," Julien said. "So this is one of hopefully many, and we need to understand that this is how we have to play to be successful."
The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 2:44 into the first period, when Reilly Smith wound up and fired from the right point through traffic after Dougie Hamilton won a battle along the boards. David Krejci won the faceoff to start the cycle.
Boston got pucks through all night, firing a season-high 45 shots on Jimmy Howard, including 19 in the first.
"They won all the battles, all the races. They competed way harder than us," Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock said postgame.
"That first goal - you can’t play catch-up hockey. It’s ridiculous. We’re grown men, we come to the rink, we should know how to prepare. We’ve got to be better. Not good enough."
The Bruins put forth a 60-minute effort.
When Detroit tied it up 1-1 with 8:39 left in the first, the Bruins didn't fall back on their heels. Pavel Datsyuk's shot had deflected off Zdeno Chara and bounced to Justin Abdelkader, who got a stick on it while he was falling for the equallizer.
It could have been deflating for the Bruins, given their up-and-down nature this season, but they responded in a big way with two goals 1:13 apart.
Carl Soderberg drew a delayed penalty, and Gregory Campbell came on as an extra attacker. After a scramble in the Detroit zone, Torey Krug fired two attempts. His second caused more chaos in front, with Loui Eriksson and Soderberg both jamming away. Soderberg lost his helmet and stayed in the battle from his stomach to help keep the puck loose.
Campbell was planted at the top of the crease and roofed his fourth of the season for the important go-ahead tally.
Just 1:13 later, at 17:25 into the first, Soderberg fired home an Eriksson feed from behind the goal to give the Bruins a two-goal cushion heading to the second. The goal came after a clean faceoff win by Chris Kelly to Eriksson, who made the quick up to Kevan Miller at the right point for the shot that found its way through. Eriksson picked up the loose puck and sent a pass to Soderberg in front.
Soderberg had a goal and two assists on the night for his sixth multi-point game of the season. The line of Kelly, Soderberg and Eriksson combined for six points.
"I think they’ve responded all year," said Julien. "You just have to look at their stats. The line has been scoring for us…so I don’t see that they had to rise up to the challenge tonight. They’ve done it all year."
It marked the first time all season, through 37 games, that the Bruins scored three goals in the opening 20 minutes.
They had a call go their way with 1:02 left in the first that preserved the two-goal lead heading to the second. Tomas Tatar got a piece of a Niklas Kronwall knuckle-puck, but video review confirmed "no goal" because the puck was high-sticked in behind Tuukka Rask.
"We showed again when we play the way we’re supposed to play how good we can be," said Rask, who made 28 saves on 30 shots. "And it’s just, this is it now. That’s got to be our hockey."
The Bruins' first period performance overshadowed the fact that they were playing the game without Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, both out "day-to-day."
"We’ve had challenges all year, so, it’s just another one," Julien said prior to the game, after giving the news that Bergeron and Lucic would be sidelined for the important divisional tilt.
The Bruins have had their share of adversity this season. By putting forth a team effort, they were able to overcome the absence of two of their top forwards.
"I think the guys just kind of responded," said Julien. "Listen, this is where we are here. This is what we have to do as a team no matter what the situation is. I mean, we’ve had Zee and then Krech out at the same time. Now it’s Looch and Bergy and I don’t think it was because of that specifically."
"I think it was the whole mentality of, ‘Listen, we need to play better.’ We know we can and I took some of that responsibility as a coach. I’ve got to get these guys to perform better and they responded, so I think that the credit goes to them."
"You know, you get to a certain stage in the season where you’ve got to understand where you’re at and what you need to do here to be better, and we did that. Now the next challenge is next game. We need to see whether that challenge or whether that type of game follows in the next one because it’s a big week for us."
The Bruins made roster moves before the game. Matt Fraser was claimed off waivers by the Edmonton Oilers before noon, so the B's were deploying a fourth line of recalled forward Matt Lindblad, Craig Cunningham and Seth Griffith. Jordan Caron filled in on a line with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell.
Griffith scored a power-play goal at 5:11 into the third period to help the Bruins regain their two-goal lead, when he ripped in a shot from the left circle for his sixth of the season. It came after a perfect saucer pass from Krejci in the corner. Chara provided the net-front presence to open up the shooting lane for Griffith.
"That was a great example of how we have to play, pretty much for the rest of the season," Chara said of the overall effort. "It’s pretty simple. We had the right attitude and right approach right from the first drop of the puck."
"They put some pressure on us, especially in the second when they got some power plays going, but I thought we handled it well. Our young guys really stepped up, our veteran guys were obviously leading the way, but I think it’s a great example of how we need to be."
"Everybody worked really hard, everybody was doing what they were supposed to do and we got the results."
The Bruins had to kill an interference penalty to Dougie Hamilton late in the third period. Half a minute after the kill, Chris Kelly fired in an empty-netter to seal the 5-2 win.
"I thought we were focused for the entire game, whereas there have been games where that focus seems to have slipped or is not where it needs to be," said Kelly. " I think everyone was focused on going over the boards and doing their job for the 40 or 50 seconds you’re on the ice and coming off and it was wave after wave. I thought that every line contributed and played really well."
Lindblad and Griffith were the only two Bruins forwards to play less than 10 minutes, but still made an impact, along with Cunningham.
"It’s hard to not single out everybody because they all played a pretty nice role and although the Cunningham line didn’t get a ton of ice time they did a great job when they were out there," said Julien. "Overall I thought our game was good as a whole and to me that’s how we have to win right now. You need everybody showing up."
With the Bruins next hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night and then the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the focus has to be on building off Monday night's effort. They can't fall into the "two steps forward, one step back" nature that has been reoccurring this season.
"We’ve done this before in the season and we followed up with a bad game so we have to realize that," said Krejci, who centered Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith with Bergeron and Lucic out.
"We have no other choice. We’re outside of the playoffs looking in. This is the only way," he added.
The Bruins still have a long way to go to solidify themselves a playoff spot. They've been on the cusp of being in a Wild Card spot, with Florida, Washington and Toronto all right there as well. Ottawa is just behind them.
"Sometimes there are speeches and players' meetings and coaches' meetings but for the most part that wasn’t the case. It was us realizing that we need to be better," Kelly said of Monday's 'let's turn this around' type of performance. "We are a good hockey team when everyone plays well and plays the system and is focused and when it’s not there, we are an average hockey team. "
"I think we need to have that effort that we had [against Detroit] consistently."
"We need to make a decision here how we want to play this year and whether we want to make the playoffs," said Julien. "That’s what I wanted to see from our team. It’s the kind of game that we need from here on in, night in, night out."