GLENDALE, Ariz. - Jaroslav Halak had not played a meaningful hockey game since April 4.
Throughout last season's run to the Stanley Cup Final, the veteran netminder watched from the bench as Tuukka Rask took the reins for all 24 of Boston's postseason games.
But despite not seeing even a second of time between the pipes during the playoffs, Halak's contributions to the Bruins' success were never diminished. Time and again, Rask and the rest of his Bruins teammates made sure to acknowledge how important Halak was in providing Boston with a dependable option to spell Rask through the regular season.
And after Saturday night, it looks like the Bruins will have that option once more.
Halak was stellar in the Bruins' 1-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena, stopping all 35 shots he faced to register his 48th career shutout and help Boston to a 2-0 start.
"It was great to be back playing a real game," said Halak. "Playing with these boys, it's really special. I was looking forward to it again. It worked out well. We came here, their home opener, and we got two points."
Video: BOS@ARI: Halak makes 35 saves to shut out Coyotes
The 34-year-old was tested early and often as he turned away 10 shots in the first period, including a semi-breakaway attempt by Vinnie Hinostroza midway through the opening frame. Halak's efforts allowed the Bruins to settle in and eventually Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead on Brad Marchand's tally with 1:19 remaining in the first.
"I think anybody likes it like that. If you get tested early, you stay focused more. That's what happened tonight. I think first two periods, we kind of gave them a little more than we wanted to," said Halak. "In the third, even when they had some shots they were from the outside. Third period was our best as far as details and just working hard and getting back and giving them any second chances."
Halak's best stops of the night came in the second period - the first a sprawling right toe save on Clayton Keller's redirect from the doorstep at the nine-minute mark, and the second a blocker stop on Michael Grabner's breakaway with 1:53 left in the frame.
"I just saw him coming on the right side," Halak said of Keller. "When the pass was made from left to right I just tried to get there and luckily it hit my pad or skate or something and stayed out. I wasn't sure if it went behind the net or wherever. But it's a great road win for us."
Turning it Back
Halak also had some help from his teammates in the second period with two textbook backchecks to shutdown opportunities for the Coyotes. Just over a minute into the frame, Par Lindholm picked Phil Kessel's pocket from behind in the slot, and just over three minutes later Charlie McAvoy did the same to his former Boston University teammate Clayton Keller, disrupting a potential breakaway attempt.
"[Lindholm's] a very smart player," said Patrice Bergeron. "He understands the game really well. He's in position most of the time and he makes the smart plays. He's been great for us so far. He's been playing really smart hockey and he's been making some great plays that don't go unnoticed by us."
Video: Halak, Bruins shut out Coyotes
Top Line Connects
After a quiet night in the season opener on Thursday in Dallas, the Bruins' top line connected for its first goal of the year - and the only marker of the game. Bergeron made a strong play along the boards to win a puck battle, before finding Marchand in the slot. Marchand took the feed and quickly wristed one toward the net that sneaked just inside the left post to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 1:19 remaining in the first period.
"I didn't see anything. Just tried to get it on net and it found its way in…we still didn't play the way we can. It's early in the year," said Marchand, who had three shots on goal in 20 minutes of ice time. "We're a little rusty, we have to be better than we've been. All the way around this wasn't our best game, but we win. At the end of the day, that's all that matters this time off year. We've got to continue to improve."
The Bruins have potted just three goals - to go along with only 46 shots on net - through two games, leaving plenty of room for growth in the offensive end.
"Tonight was a little better," said Bergeron. "We've got to keep improving and keep communicating and finding each other….I thought tonight was everyone, we all can create more and get on the puck a little more and competing.
"When you do that, good things happen. It's a big win, it's not easy to win in this league. We'll take it on the road."
Video: BOS@ARI: Marchand beats Kuemper short side
After missing the season opener with a lower-body injury, David Krejci made his 2019-20 debut, centering Jake DeBrusk and Karson Kuhlman for much of the night. The pivot had one shot on goal in 15:57 of ice time.
"Not 100 percent," Cassidy said when asked if Krejci had his legs. "He hasn't practiced a to recently. There's some rust there, he's just got to play through it just like a lot of guys that didn't play a lot in preseason."