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Bruins Start Road Trip Off Right

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WINNIPEG — The always electric MTS Centre took a brief sigh just 1:38 into the first period on Thursday night, when Patrice Bergeron struck first for the opposition.

That wouldn’t last long, with fast paced, back-and-forth action in the game’s first 30 minutes that resulted in 30 shots on goal for Winnipeg. But by the time the third period came around, the building had returned to its collective sigh.

On the ice, the Jets were still going for it, pulling their goalie with five minutes left in the third. Jimmy Hayes potted the empty-netter to make it 6-2 and give the Bruins their first win on a season-long six-game trip.

“It was a huge start, that’s what we wanted,” said Bergeron, who notched two goals on the night and whose line combined for nine points. “But we know there’s a lot more to this road trip than just one game and now we need to focus on Minnesota.”

On the first shift of the game, Brett Connolly stayed strong cycling with the puck. The red-hot Brad Marchand fed off of that, pulled out a shake-and-bake around the Jets’ defense and set up Bergeron on the doorstep for the center’s 20th goal of the season.

Soon after, Zac Rinaldo and Chris Thorburn dropped the gloves. The decibels ratcheted back up and the Jets answered at 3:29 into the first, when Bryan Little made it a 1-1 game.

The Bruins then had a penalty to kill and Tuukka Rask made five saves he needed to make. At one point, the Bruins were being outshot 12-3 in the period with most of Winnipeg’s chances coming in tight. The start was shaky.

When Loui Eriksson made it 2-1, the Jets again responded to tie the game, with rookie Nikolaj Ehlers firing in a power play goal. It was the last gaffe the Bruins would make.

With 1:15 to go in the first, Zdeno Chara sent a quick up though the neutral zone to Connolly, who put a touch pass on Marchand’s tape. The slick winger wheeled into the zone, got slashed on the way in and backhanded a slick goal top shelf for his 26th of the season and 11th goal in his past 11 games.

“He’s been arguably our best player for a while now and he continues to score every night, it’s impressive,” said Connolly. “You just want to try and keep up with him and make some good plays and those are two good players who are very fun to play with.”

“You see what he does,” Julien said of Marchand. “He’s just a good penalty killer, he’s a great goal scorer, he’s also good on the power play — he’s been really hot as of late. Any chance he gets, he buries nowadays, so he’s been a real spark plug for our hockey club and it just keeps us alive.”

Of Marchand’s 26 goals this season, 14 of them have given the Bruins a lead in a game. They now have a 16-3-3 record in games in which he has score a goal.

“When you play with that kind of confidence and you’ve got that much skill and speed, it makes for a pretty good player,” said Julien. “So we’re hoping he’s going to stick with that approach and continue to play the same way.”

The Bruins’ 3-2 lead was one that they wouldn’t give up.

“Whenever they scored a goal to come back, we bounced back, we didn’t panic,” said Marchand. “And we did a really good job of having the killer instinct in the third period, so really proud of the club.”

The Jets came out in the second and deployed their run-and-gun game again, like at the start of the first. Time on the penalty kill for Boston didn’t help.

“Well, it was a character win,” said Rask, who made 34 saves in the team’s bounce-back performance from their 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. “Obviously, the way we played the first 30 minutes, you’re not going to win a lot of games if you play like that.”

“But a character win, we battled, we stuck with it, fortunate enough to score three goals in the third period,” he added. “I think that helped, and then we never looked back, so, good win.”

“Obviously, though, something needed to happen because they were on pace for 60 shots against, so good thing we battled back.”

Just 35 seconds into the third, David Pastrnak potted his own rebound to give the Bruins an important 4-2 lead. David Krejci sprung him on a 2-on-1 opportunity, and he faked the pass before firing a shot on Jets netminder Michael Hutchinson.

The Bruins clamped down.

For a span of close to 25 minutes stretching from midway through the second, into the third, the Bruins allowed only one shot on Rask.

“You know, it’s nice that you get that kind of response. Because you know, outside our dressing room, there’s a lot of people wondering how we were going to react to that loss [to LA],” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “But that’s one game and we’ve promised ourselves that we’re going to have a good road trip here, so this is one of many more games to come.”

With 12:18 left in the third, Bergeron picked up his second of the game to make it 5-2 when hepotted a rebound off an initial bid from Connolly, who assisted on three of his line’s goals to mark a career single-game high for points and assists.

“We have a really good line right now that’s connecting and Bergy and Conns have been playing great,” said Marchand. “You look at all three goals our line was on for — they won battles, they competed hard and made really good plays.”

The Bruins kept it simple in the third period. They forced the Jets to make mistakes. It’s how they should have played the first 30 minutes.

“I thought that tonight was a great response,” said Bergeron. “I thought in the first, we were giving them a little too much of the slot plays defensively but then we closed it and we played a solid game.”

The game exhibited more passion and punch than the Bruins have showed in a while. In addition to Rinaldo, Bergeron and Matt Beleskey both dropped the gloves (Bergeron in a spur-of-the-moment quick bout with former Bruin Blake Wheeler).

“It was definitely a full team effort,” said Marchand. “Everyone kind of came to the plate tonight and from the drop of the puck, we played a really good game so that’s what we need if we’re going to move forward and be a good team — everyone has to come to play every night and that’s what’s expected here.”

One win is one win.

As the Jets and their fans were likely already moving on from a tough loss on home ice (and the first one by the Bruins there since the 2011-12 season), the Bruins were already moving on to Minnesota.

From a sigh of angst by the Winnipeg crowd, to a sigh of relief for the Bruins. But not for long. Five more opponents await this squad. It’s going to take five more team efforts.

“Different guys stepped up,” said Connolly. “And that’s what we’re going to need going forward on this road trip if we want to make it successful.”

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