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Newcomers Make Quite the First Impression

Wingels, Nash pot first Bruins goals in TD Garden debuts

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - Tommy Wingels has played against the Bruins for the last seven years. He is well aware of the combination of skill, physicality, and grit that has made the Black & Gold a handful to play against.

And on Tuesday night, the veteran forward finally got to be on the other side of it.

Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at Monday's trade deadline for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2019, the 29-year-old suited up for his first game as a Bruin - and did not disappoint.

Wingels notched a goal and an assist, while fellow newcomer Rick Nash also grabbed his first in the Black & Gold - to go along with a stellar stick save in the first period - as the Bruins grabbed a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Charlie McAvoy's overtime snipe 1:08 into the extra session.

"Whenever you played the Bruins, you knew you were in for a game," said Wingels, who was inserted into the lineup with Patrice Bergeron sidelined by a fractured foot. "And I think that's as good of a compliment as you can give, that those guys compete, those guys play hard, and they're tough to play against. That's what I saw from them and that's what I'm going to try to fit in here as well.

"If you get traded this is the kind of place you want to go to. A hungry team, a team that is capable of winning it all and a team with the skill and work ethic of the Bruins here. So, really happy to be here and just going to try to contribute any way I can."

Video: Wingels discusses becoming a Bruin

Boston's newcomers were crucial to the victory - which snapped a short two-game skid, the Bruins' longest since mid-December - quickly endearing themselves to the TD Garden faithful by helping the Black & Gold climb out of two early holes.

After falling behind, 3-1, on Sebastian Aho's goal with 56 seconds to play in the first period, Boston received a jolt from Wingels and Riley Nash before the buzzer. Wingels pressured Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin with a smothering forecheck, forcing the blue liner to cough up the puck in the slot. The 29-year-old then extended his stick to swat the loose puck away from Brett Pesce, who was coming in to support.

That left a surging Riley Nash wide open in the slot, where he pulled the puck to his backhand and deked around goalie Scott Darling to bring the Bruins within a goal with just 2.9 seconds to play in the opening frame.

"Just tracked it down in the neutral zone, the high flip, and thought I could pressure their D-man and stayed with the puck," said Wingels, who had two shots on goal and was a plus-2 in 15:06 of ice time. "A bouncing puck is hard for a D-man, so I stayed on it and second effort. I saw [Nash] coming and just tried whacking it to him and he made a really good play. Great patience there going around him and good finish."

Video: CAR@BOS: Riley Nash scores on nice move from the slot

Wingels continued his relentless play early in the second period and tied the game with a pretty finish off a feed from Jake DeBrusk (two assists). The play started with another strong pursuit by Wingels through the neutral zone to force a turnover.

The puck jumped to McAvoy, who fed DeBrusk at the red line. DeBrusk cruised down the left wing and zipped a pass to Wingels through the slot, where the newcomer ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of Darling to tie it, 3-3, at 5:34 of the second.

"DeBrusk, great pass across," said Wingels, who like Sean Kuraly is a University of Miami (Ohio) alum. "It starts with [David] Backes driving the net that opens up that lane and going in and pushing their defense back and I found a way to get it in. So, good play all around."

Video: CAR@BOS: Wingels picks the corner in Bruins debut

Like Wingels, Rick Nash did his part in his first game at TD Garden. After a strong debut in Buffalo - during which Nash fired five shots on goal and clanked another opportunity off the post - the former first overall pick finally cashed in midway through the first.

DeBrusk forced Justin Faulk to loose control of the puck along the boards, freeing it up for David Krejci at the blue liner. Krejci then threaded a pass to a wide-open Nash, who fired one by Darling to knot the game at 1 and collect his 800th career point.

"Whenever you start with a new team or a fresh season, you always want to get that first one out of the way," said Nash. "It always seems like the hardest one to get."

Through two games, Nash has developed some instant chemistry with his new linemates.

"I thought the first game we spent the whole game in the other team's zone," said Nash. "And tonight I thought two periods were good - second period we kind of turned it over a bit - but it's been good and I feel like we can only get better."

Video: CAR@BOS: Rick Nash nets first as Bruin, 800th point

Nash also delivered on the defensive end. Covering for a pinching Torey Krug at the offensive blue line early in the first period, the 6-foot-4 winger found himself retreating through the neutral zone alongside Brandon Carlo as the Hurricanes went on the attack.

Tuukka Rask stopped Jaccob Slavin's initial shot, but Justin Williams' rebound attempt tumbled through the crease before Nash stepped in and swept the puck off the goal line with his stick to keep the game scoreless.

"It was a bit strange to be skating backwards over the blue line and playing like a defenseman," said Nash. "It's definitely hard, but I just saw the puck kind of trickling in and I wasn't sure right away if it did cross the line or not, but I got pretty lucky that it didn't."

With the Bruins charging towards a second consecutive postseason appearance, general manager Don Sweeney's goal was to put his team in the best position for a deep run. By adding Nash and Wingels at the trade deadline, he has provided the Bruins with veteran experience and valuable depth - both of which were needed, and delivered, on Tuesday night.

"They're both experienced players in the league, and I think they're good people that want to help the team win," said Cassidy. "We wanted them. They can help a good team be better, so I think that's part of it, as well. Like anybody, you go to a new job, you want to impress…good first impression. I think that's human nature, and they've done that."

Video: Balanced offense carries Bruins to 4-3 OT victory

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