WINNIPEG, Manitoba - After a nine-day break, Brad Marchand was hoping for an easy re-entry as the Bruins returned from their bye week with a tilt against the Winnipeg Jets.
From the onset, however, it was clear that Friday night's contest at Bell MTS Place was going to be anything but relaxed.
In a battle that was reminiscent of a time gone by in the NHL, the teams combined for 74 penalty minutes and three fights - as well as another scuffle that led to gloves flying. It turned into a statement game for the Black & Gold, who responded with a hard-fought 2-1 victory to kick off the unofficial second half.
"It's unnecessary when you've been on a long break like that and you're just trying to get through the game," Marchand said with a smile "It was great by our team to show up and stick up for each other and have a game like that. They're a lot of fun to be a part of, especially when we were [shorthanded] for pretty much the entire second period, to be able to pull that off."
Marchand, Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman, and Charlie McAvoy - though he wasn't assessed a fighting major - all dropped the gloves in response to some heavy checks leveled by both sides, showing the type of push back that some believed had been lacking at times this season.
"Part of the message - you talk about teams working on their game - it was definitely about being harder to play against and building these types of game if they're out there for you," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "It was there, it presented itself. [Zdeno Chara] had a good hit. Charlie has a good, clean hit, they come after him.
"All of a sudden, that changes the complexion of the game. All of a sudden, it's one of those games. Get dragged into the fight, something our team needs, typically responds well."
Video: Rask, strong PK help Bruins stave off Jets, 2-1
Marchand believed it was the exact kind of game that can help pull a team together for the stretch run.
"It keeps guys on their toes, it shows the camaraderie among the guys that they care about each other," said Marchand. "That's what separates good teams from bad teams, when you have a team that really cares about each other - and most good teams have that. It's not something we're gonna lose in here. I think it's necessary"
Here are some other news and notes from Friday's win over Winnipeg:
Special Teams Carries the Day
Two of the fights - Marchand and Carlo - resulted in extra penalties on the Bruins, leading to six kills overall, including two 5-on-3 opportunities for Winnipeg. Nevertheless, Boston's penalty killers, led by Chara's team-high 6:58 of shorthanded time on ice, did a stellar job of keeping the Jets off the board on the man advantage.
"Our penalty kill was huge," said Jake DeBrusk, who potted the winning goal early in the third. "Our penalty kill is the biggest reason why we won tonight. It starts with Tuukka [Rask] obviously, our best PKer. Then we get timely blocks, timely clears, good sticks…that's why we won the game tonight."
On the flip side, the Bruins connected for two power-play goals on four opportunities, reigniting a PP that was 0 for its last 15 entering the night. Patrice Bergeron struck first, trying the game with 53 seconds remaining in the first on his 22nd goal of the season off of a feed from Marchand in the slot, while DeBrusk later notched the go-ahead marker when he cashed in from the doorstep to make it 2-1 just 3:07 into the third period.
"Our power play's been due for a little bit," said DeBrusk.
Video: BOS@WPG: Bergeron goes far side for PPG in 1st
Tuukka Sets the Tone
Rask, who had missed the three games prior to the break with a concussion, made his return between the pipes and put forth a stellar performance that included 37 saves, 12 of which came on the penalty kill.
"He was good, he was really good," said Marchand. "He made the saves when we needed them. He made a couple big saves, some really good ones late. He's so good. If we're gonna be a good team, we need him to play games like that and he did. It was great to have that."
Boston's ace netminder admitted that he was a bit tired following the long layoff but credited his teammates for their strong all-around effort.
"That was a good battle. We needed those kills," said Rask. "It was one after another in the second period. Never were able to catch a breath there for the killers. Showed some physicality and grinded a win out…it was good hockey, we need that moving forward."
Video: BOS@WPG: Rask shuts down Wheeler with glove
DeBrusk Pots Winner
DeBrusk netted the winner at 3:07 of the third period as he parked himself in his familiar net-front spot on Boston's top power-play unit. As David Pastrnak (two assists) wheeled around the Winnipeg net, DeBrusk created some separation from Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, opening up a lane for Pastrnak.
Pastrnak then delivered a perfect feed to DeBrusk, who whacked it by Winnipeg goalie Laurent Brossoit for his 16th goal of the season and a 2-1 Bruins lead.
"Pasta coming around the net and I knew it was coming to me, so I just tried to keep my stick down," said DeBrusk. "I've missed about 500 of those, just ask Marchy about that - I've missed a lot of those this year, so I was just trying to bear down on my stick and just tried to put in, maybe catch him going side to side.
"I don't even know where it went in, I just heard the crowd. It was nice to see that go in. I think it's the first goal I've scored there. It's nice to be able to do that."
Video: BOS@WPG: DeBrusk takes the lead on power play