LAS VEGAS - All season long, the Bruins have been searching for secondary scoring to complement their leading trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. And that quest became even more imperative when Pastrnak, the Bruins' leading goal scorer, went down with a thumb injury early last week, sidelining him for at least the team's Western Conference road swing.
Navigating through a lengthy five-game, 11-day trip without Pastrnak's 31 goals seemed like a daunting task. But it may very well have spurred on the offensive urgency the Bruins needed.
In the four games without Pastrnak - all victories - the Bruins have scored 19 goals, an average of 4.75 per contest, nearly two goals per game more than their season average, which has jumped from 2.85 (15th in the NHL) to 3.00 (20th) in that stretch.
"We miss Pasta, but I think our guys…we have enough solid leaders that it's - next man up is the term, no passengers. We use that a lot, next guy that goes in has to do the job," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Did we expect to score this many goals without Pasta? No. We were trending as a lower-scoring team and now for whatever reason we've found a little bit.
"Maybe that's just guys saying, 'We've got to pick up the pace here.' That's how we do things; we play for one another. Good to see."
Video: Cassidy addresses media on a practice day in Vegas
Much of the uptick in offense can be attributed to the play of Jake DeBrusk (goals in all four games to go along with five assists), the emergence of Danton Heinen playing alongside Bergeron and Marchand (goal, three assists), and the continued success of the fourth line (three goals, four assists).
But the most encouraging part of the offensive outburst may be the production from the back end, which has contributed four goals and seven assists during the four-game window without Pastrnak.
"The D we knew would come around, we addressed that a while ago," said Cassidy. "The timing is excellent for that."
Indeed it is.
The defense corps' recent offensive impact was quite apparent in the Bruins' thrilling 6-5 overtime victory in San Jose on Monday night, with Boston receiving goals from Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, and Charlie McAvoy, who picked up the winner with 1:01 remaining in the extra session.
"You obviously don't replace a guy like Pasta with his scoring ability," said McAvoy, who has three goals over his last six games, including the winners in Boston's last two victories over Los Angeles and San Jose.
"I think you just fill it by committee and I think everyone is doing that. Just trying to be opportunistic with our chances and fortunate to see some of these go in."
Video: McAvoy discusses overtime game winner
McAvoy has appeared much more at ease in recent weeks as he finally begins to gain some traction following a concussion and foot infection that led to a tumultuous start to his sophomore campaign and has limited him to just 33 games.
The 21-year-old has become more assertive in the offensive zone, as evidenced by his surge through the slot to tap home DeBrusk's feed for the eventual winner with 1:13 to go in Boston's 4-2 victory in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
"That's hockey I.Q.," said Cassidy. "Plays and confidence to go at certain times of the game…the game in L.A. was late, he's got to make sure he's on time and making a good decision and he did. I think he's been around it a little bit, he's had a few other opportunities near the front.
"Charlie's that type of goal scorer. I think he can weave his way in. Other guys are shooters. Torey you can see is more of a shot for his goal production, Zee over the years is a heavy shot. Charlie might be a little bit more around the net.
"He's not a shot-first guy, at least mentality, so it's give-and-go, maybe, a little bit more on some plays around the net. Good for him. As long as the forwards read off him and cover, we're fine with it."
Video: BOS@LAK: McAvoy breaks tie off give-and-go
In addition to McAvoy, Brandon Carlo has also seen his offensive production elevate of late. Known more for his heavy, shutdown style, the 6-foot-5, 212-pounder has made a concerted effort to become more involved, leading to two primary assists on this road trip.
"I think I pride myself on my defensive game first off and then whatever I can build from there is great," said Carlo. "The offensive side of things…I'm not as stressed out with the puck in those situation where there's plays to be made. I see different opportunities and I make those plays. It kind of sticks in my head and I'm more confident the next time doing the same thing."
Both of Carlo's helpers were off of heavy point shots from the tops of the circles, allowing for tips and rebounds in the crease. The first assist came in Anaheim when Noel Acciari deflected home Carlo's blast to open the scoring in Boston's 3-0 victory, with the second Carlo rocket creating a rebound that Chris Wagner eventually potted for the tying goal with 1:49 to play in San Jose.
"I feel like throughout this year I've been getting up in the play a little bit more and getting more shots on net," said Carlo, who is averaging 1.43 shots on goal per game this season, up from an average of 1.03 over his first two season. "As a result, the past couple games I've been fortunate enough to get a couple assists, but before that I still feel like I was growing that aspect of my game and I've been doing that throughout this year.
"Hopefully that continues to grow and get more opportunities and find more time to put pucks in the back of the net."
Video: Carlo addresses media on a practice day in Vegas
With the trade deadline fast approaching and the Bruins - now winners of six straight with a points streak at 11 - surging towards the top of the league standings, the continued emergence of some pop from the back end could add a new dimension for the Black & Gold down the stretch.
"We have to be a part of it for our team's success," said McAvoy. "It's good to find some consistency, whether you're impacted by injuries or just lulls or lack of confidence. These things happen…to break through and have some production [from the younger players], it's awesome.
"For the club it's huge because that secondary scoring is what we're gonna need to have success."
Peter Cehlarik, who missed Monday night's game with San Jose due to a lower-body injury, was one of several players to take part in a light skate on Tuesday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena. His status for Wednesday's tilt against Vegas is still in question.
Cassidy confirmed that Jaroslav Halak would start in goal vs. the Golden Knights.