- Through 14 games, Chris Kelly
had been pressing for his first goal of the season. The center may have been coming off a career year in 2011-12 with his 20-goal output, but he remained focused on his two-way game, smiled through questions about bearing down, and stayed the course.
When Game No. 15 rolled around on Sunday against the Florida Panthers, and the clocked ticked to 2:30 in the second period, the sigh of relief finally came.
Kelly was on the ice at the tail end of a Bruins power play, positioned for the first shift of full strength, when Chris Bourque sped down the right wing and left a drop pass for Daniel Paille (also on the ice for the upcoming 5-on-5), who ripped a shot moving to his left that was deflected right to Kelly's stick for the tap-in.
"Yeah, a long time coming," said the always smiling center following the B's 4-1 win in Sunrise. "And hopefully it’s the sign of good things to come."
Pressing for his first through the B's first 14 games, Kelly had tried his best not to force too much emphasis on his lack of scoring. Instead, he focused attention on other aspects of his game - but the goose egg next to his scoring stat still remained.
"A little bit," Kelly said, on if had put any pressure on himself. "Obviously, you want to score. I think this was the15th game and I hadn’t scored but I try to work on other things. When you’re not scoring, you’ve got to bring other things to the table and I’ve been trying to focus on that and not really focus on the other side."
"He’s one of those guys that does put a lot of pressure on himself and to be able to get that monkey off your back it’s always a good thing," Coach Julien said following the game. "Although he hadn’t scored yet, I thought his game was really coming along."
"There’s a lot of things that he was doing well. As you know, he’s part of the penalty kill but also his skating and his timing are coming a long and you’re starting to see him turn a corner, I should say, in regards to his play."
No. 23 has not only been a part of the PK that has killed 55 of 58 penalties this season to rank tops in the league, but he's also been a strong two-way force and faceoff go-to in man-down situations behind Patrice Bergeron, where he averages two minutes and 25 seconds of shorthanded time on the ice per game.
The center has not dipped below 40 percent on the faceoff dot in all but three games this season, and finished the game in Florida winning 77.8 of the faceoffs he took.
His two-way play doesn't require luck, but when it comes to getting his first score of the season to add to his four assists, he'll take a little bit of luck on his side.
"I thought it was a great pass by Piesy - not many guys can make that pass," Kelly smiled, questioning the media's assessment of his puck luck.
"It was a lucky bounce, but I'll take it."
"I did see Kells going to the net but I was going for a shot," said Paille. "A guy got his stick on me from behind and it squeaked between the defender trying to block the shot and it was a perfect pass I guess and hit Kells' tape, so I’ll take that for sure."
Good bounce or not, the center's teammates and Coach were happy to see him get the monkey off his back.
"Kells has been battling pretty hard all year and just hasn’t gotten a bounce until today," said Paille. "And it’s just him going to the net and being in the right place so it’s a huge part for him to get that first one I think."
The goal also gave Boston a much-welcomed two-goal lead against Florida - before Paille potted an empty-netter to give the B's they first three-goal margin of victory this season.
Leads are not something they have had the luxury of playing much with this season - but have done so in their past two occasions, having previously earned a 4-2 win over Tampa.
"I think guys are starting to find that open ice a little bit more, and maybe not putting that pressure on themselves at the start of the year," said Kelly.
"When you're just focusing on the game and trying to be open, the puck tends to find you sometimes out there."