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McAvoy Finding His Footing

Defenseman was an all-around force in Bruins OT victory over Colorado

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - Charlie McAvoy is looking to build some momentum.

The former first-round pick has not had the smoothest of sophomore campaigns, with a concussion and foot infection limiting him to just 29 games.

But since returning from the foot ailment on Jan. 12 - a span of 12 games - the blue liner has slowly begun to put the pieces back together. And it was McAvoy's performance over the weekend that signaled his elite top-pairing abilities might be rounding back into form just in time for the stretch run.

A day after notching two points (goal, assist) in the Bruins' win over Los Angeles, McAvoy continued his strong play on Sunday afternoon, collecting an assist and three hits - while logging a team-high 25:34 of ice time - in Boston's 2-1 overtime victory against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden.

"I think over these last couple of games," said McAvoy, "the production maybe might not be there, but I'll take playing consistent hockey, being relied on and being trusted by the coaches and the team. I'll take that any day.

"I feel like I've been playing a consistent brand of hockey and trying to just continue that. That's my goal every single game: to be relied on, to be solid, to try to play mistake-free hockey - obviously that's not possible - but do my best."

Video: McAvoy chats with media after Bruins OT win

As McAvoy, now in his second full season, adjusts to the rigors of the National Hockey League and finds his bearings following a number of unusual injuries over his first two campaigns, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is practicing patience.

While McAvoy's high-end skills make him an easy choice to play alongside longtime stalwart Zdeno Chara to form Boston's No. 1 defensive duo, Cassidy knows that there will be plenty of learning curves for the 21-year-old.

"[He plays] against anybody, plays on the power play, plays on the penalty kill and moves the puck, so a little more modern-day type of player, does a little bit of everything," said Cassidy. "If you look at the Drew Doughtys, the [Roman] Josis, [P.K.] Subbans, whoever you're going to put in those categories - we hope that he's in that category at some point.

"But again, we want to temper that so that when Charlie has the usual 20-year-old hiccups we don't get down on him."

Hiccups were hard to come by during the Bruins' two OT victories over the weekend, with McAvoy appearing as comfortable in his all-around game as he has all season. The Long Beach, New York, native contributed three points - including his first goal since Oct. 13 - across the two victories, during which he also landed a combined six shots on goal.

The offensive engagement could be in direct relation to McAvoy's willingness to shoot the puck. In the 12 games since his return, he has landed 24 shots on goal, after pumping just 15 shots in his first 15 games of the season.

"Maybe he's starting to feel like now he's into form, right?" said Cassidy. "It's not that easy in this league to miss five weeks or four weeks or whatever the case was each time and then all of a sudden get back and revved up to full speed. And the expectations are high for Charlie. He's had a good start here.

"Part of that we try to temper with him without talking him down and not reaching his potential, but he has to understand it's a tough league and play the game in front of him. And I think he's starting to now play that way, and then when the opportunities are there, he looks like to me that he's taking advantage of the situation.

"He's not forcing anything, so that's a sign that a guy's in a zone when you have the puck a lot. You're making plays, yet you're not forcing stuff and seem to be making a lot of the right decisions. He's in a groove right now."

Video: Marchand nets OT winner in Bruins' 2-1 win

McAvoy's contributions were not limited to the offensive zone, however, as the 6-foot, 208-pound asserted himself at the other end of the ice, too. The former Boston University standout was a physical presence throughout Sunday's victory, highlighted by his heavy check on fellow Terriers alum Matt Nieto in front of the Colorado bench.

"Sometimes it just presents itself, and then there's times when it starts and I'll just start to play a more physical game," said McAvoy. "It kind of started in that first shift there, and then it kind of presents itself more, kind of looking for it more, but it's just something that I possess, that I like to do. I like to be physical when I can within the rules, so it was nice to get a couple of hits."

Over and Out

Brad Marchand ended things with his 14th career overtime goal, extending his club record, while moving into second place among active players behind Washington's Alexander Ovechkin (22).

"I figured if I could get it to Bergy that he'd be able to walk across and make a play, but when you get a lucky bounce, we'll take it," said Marchand, whose goal - his 21st of the season - clanked off an Avalanche's skate with 57 seconds left in extra time.

"We won. At the end of the day that's what matters. But you could tell both teams were a little tired, especially in the third. There wasn't a whole lot going on in the third period, we both kind of just hit a wall.

"That's what happens when you have a long week of hockey - they traveled, we played back-to-backs. So, it's kind of expected but it's good that we got the points."

The tally also helped the Bruins snap a 12-game home winless streak (0-10-1-1) against Colorado. It was Boston's first victory over the Avalanche on Causeway Street since March 30, 1998.

Video: COL@BOS: Marchand nets OT winner off deflection

Back on Track

Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves, including a breakaway stop on Nathan MacKinnon early in the second period, to get the victory. It was his first win since Jan. 3 vs. Calgary, ending a five-game skid (0-3-2).

"It's nice to win a game again, it's been a while," said Halak. "I felt all right against the Rangers and against Winnipeg [both overtime games]. When it goes to OT, three-on-three, you never know what's going to happen and then a shootout...

"Tonight, I thought we were going to a shootout again and when it went in I was happy and I just couldn't believe it at first. It's nice. It's nice to get a win again."

Video: COL@BOS: Halak denies MacKinnon on breakaway

Moore Than A Game

John Moore's second-period goal - his third of the season - tied the game, 1-1. But it had some added meaning after he and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed a baby girl, Lucy, on Thursday. It is the couple's second child.

"It felt really good to contribute and help the team," said Moore. "I had a cheering section at home. My wife and I just had a new baby. I know my daughter [Milly] loves coming to these afternoon games, so I knew they were watching at home. I'm going to race home, see them, change a diaper or two, so I guess the real shift starts now."

Video: COL@BOS: Moore nets goal through traffic

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