With all of the talk around the Boston Bruins trying to "find their game" heading into a five-game homestand at TD Garden, it appears that the comforts of home have helped the cause.
The Bruins picked up nine of a possible 10 points and have won four straight heading on a three-game road swing that begins in Ottawa on Friday night.
And if the Black & Gold are finding their game, it usually means they're finding ways to win.
This time, it was Milan Lucic giving the Boston faithful a worthy sendoff with his first-ever overtime goal as a Bruin that powered his team to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I think when you look at the record, it’s what you wanted," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said of his club that improved to 12-5-1 on the season and 4-0-1 in their last five games.
"Nine out of 10 points is something certainly to be happy with. And now we have to bring our game on the road and we have three tough road games coming up."
The B's jet off to Canada and face the Senators within the next 24 hours, before another back-to-back against the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers.
"I think we kind of bared down after that last loss," said Brad Marchand, who helped set up the Bruins' first goal of the night, an equalizer from Loui Eriksson off a deflection in the first period that tied it up 1-1.
We all really just got back to working hard and keeping it a little more simple. We know we have to be better, we have a really good team here, we want to live up to our expectations. I think we’re coming around. - Brad Marchand
"We all really just got back to working hard and keeping it a little more simple. We know we have to be better, we have a really good team here, we want to live up to our expectations. I think we’re coming around."
The game itself wasn't flawless (except for the B's penalty kill, which has now killed 26 straight penalties), with Boston giving up turnovers, especially at the bluelines, and not able to follow through on chances generated down low in Columbus' zone early in the game.
On the score sheet, the teams were fairly even - and on the ice, it bode true as well.
"It’s just how the game goes. I mean, you’re not going to play a perfect game," said Marchand. "We had some good opportunities, they had some good opportunities; I think we got a little bit sloppy there for a bit, but Johnny [Chad Johnson] did a great job at keeping us in it."
The game was knotted at 1-1 after the first, and 2-2 following the second after the Blue Jackets found a way to get the tying goal. Johnson was sharp early in the final frame, and stoned Cam Atkinson twice among his timely stops. He finished with 32 saves.
"He’s worked so hard for us all year long and we really wanted to have a good game for him," said Marchand. "He made some huge saves in the third and kept us in it; he did a great job."
Heading into overtime when a back-to-back is looming is never ideal, but ending it in the extra time versus the shootout certainly helps.
"It’s my first overtime goal that I ever scored and it ends up being a big one," smiled Lucic from the locker room postgame, as the B's quickly packed up their equipment bags and shuffled out to catch the team charter.
"The last game on this homestand, which ended up being a successful one."
With 48.6 on the clock in overtime, Lucic powered the puck through Bobrovsky's legs after standing up to a shot from Cam Atkinson inside the blueline.
And once the 'Looch Train' picks up speed, it's not slowing down.
"A great job of blocking the shot and he got on his horse and took off," said Julien. "He can shoot the puck. He got him in the five-hole and it was a great decision on his part."
The Bruins finding their game also translates to a team effort, with layers all over the ice, and not just on the defensive side of the puck. When the B's are going, different players and lines step up on any given night - like the Merlot Line.
"Thorny scored that second goal which was a big goal for us; it gave us the lead," said Julien, of Shawn Thornton's fire from the right circle that deflected past Bobrovsky for a 2-1 lead in the second.
"Even though Looch didn’t want to give him credit for it because it hit the D’s stick - and he made sure to tell him on the bench - so there’s a lot of support as you can see on that bench for guys that score goals," joked Julien. Thornton scoring usually means a considerable amount of chirping for the winger who has two goals to start the 2013-14 campaign.
But it also means that the B's energy-shifting 'Merlot Line' with Thornton, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell is chipping in on the score sheet.
"It was a big goal and that line continues to give us that on regular nights and, if not that, it’s the momentum, it’s the energy that they give us. It’s coming around. I thought that line probably started off slow this year but we’re starting to see the line that we’re used to seeing."
And when Merlot is going, representative of the Bruins' balanced attack throughout their lineup.
"I think we just got back to supporting one another and moving the puck better and our transition game has been better," said Julien, of what he saw shift in his team's game during the homestand. "We’re coming up the ice again as a five man unit."
"When we got into that skid, that was the main thing that got away from us is that we were trying to play too much as individuals instead of a team game, and we’re getting back to that."
While the win wasn't their best showing, the end result was two more points to cap off their fourth straight victory.
"We can stand here every night after every game and nitpick at our team. At the end of the night, we won a game. We had more scoring chances than them. We weren’t perfect, we aren’t a perfect team; but we are a good team," said Juilen.
"It’s one of those things; there’s breakdowns. I’m not standing here saying I’m happy, but the guys worked hard."
"We found our way again," said Thornton. "It was a pretty hard fought game both ways. I think Looch did a great job for us at the end and got us the W, I think that’s obviously the most important thing. So, hopefully we continue that momentum."