SUNRISE, Fla. - One of the most frustrating issues during the Bruins' five-game losing streak for coach Bruce Cassidy was the lack of offense the team was getting from its middle six.
With scoring hard to come by for much of Boston's skid, Cassidy opted to make a few changes for the club's road-trip finale on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. The most notable tweak was elevating Charlie Coyle to the second line to ride on the right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
It is a move that Cassidy has tried on a number of occasions since Coyle's arrival last February and one he hoped would spark some offense outside of the Bruins' top line. Consider the spark ignited.
While Coyle did not make his way onto the scoresheet, his presence clearly paid dividends for the second line as they struck for two even-strength goals - one each for Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci - in Boston's 4-2 victory at BB&T Center.
"They certainly were excellent," said Cassidy, whose club also got two goals from David Pastrnak as it snapped its season-high skid. "Was it Charlie or was it the other two guys just knowing that sooner or later, they're good players, they're gonna come around? I think it's a bit of both. Charlie's a good presence in the slot, he'll help below the goal line.
"Jake's goal was tough luck on them, but good second effort by us. I thought for most of the night they were finding those soft areas because they recovered pucks. It worked out well for us because we won the game and we had some offense. Three good players that knew they could be better and they were."
Video: DeBrusk recaps 4-2 win over FLA
DeBrusk and Krejci both finished with a goal and an assist as they helped Boston build a 2-0 advantage. The first tally came via DeBrusk, who recovered from a broken play in the neutral zone with some nifty work through a bevy of Florida defenders.
After losing the handle on the puck while trying to corral a pass from Charlie McAvoy, DeBrusk managed to poke it past Mark Pysyk and Anton Stralman. DeBrusk got behind them and won the race to the loose puck, creating a breakaway, which he finished by floating a wrister over the blocker of Sergei Bobrovsky with 5:19 to go in the first.
Krejci doubled the Bruins' lead at 3:14 of the second period when he took a feed from DeBrusk and blasted home a one-timer from the top of the slot that just trickled over the goal line for his seventh goal of the season.
"It was the first time in a while that we kind of controlled the pace of play when we were out there and it's just one of those things that you try to keep building as the year goes along," said DeBrusk, whose goal was the 100th point of his career. "It was nice to produce two goals five-on-five. That's something that we want to do, especially this time when it's kind of backs against the wall going up against a good Florida team with a good home record. We knew that we had to be good and it was nice to see."
Video: BOS@FLA: DeBrusk beats Bobrovsky for 100th NHL point
DeBrusk pointed out that Coyle's ability to possess pucks, as well as the defensive attributes that carry over from being a natural centerman, helped set the tone for a successful night.
"He was good tonight," said DeBrusk. "I thought he was strong on pucks. He's been there a little bit throughout the year. [It's] more so understanding what kind of player he is the more reps that you get. I thought that he was strong on pucks down low and good defensively.
"Obviously, he's a centerman naturally, so to have that kind of defensive posture gave us more chances to go out in the D zone for draws. I thought that we played well as a line tonight."
Ending the Drought
As the Bruins stumbled through a five-game losing streak, so too did their power play. Boston's man advantage was mired in a 2-for-29 slump, before finally breaking through midway through the second period with Pastrnak's first of the night. For the game, the Bruins finished 1 for 3.
"We had good looks with both units…they were moving it quick, taking what was there, playing off the shot, recovering pucks and hope you get a team running around and that's exactly what happened on the third goal," said Cassidy. "Pasta's back door, broken play where our creativity takes over. Thought it was the result of good shot selection, good recovery, work for the open space."
With Florida taking away the seam through the slot, Pastrnak drifted closer to the net, knowing that his patented one-timer was not likely to be an option. The winger planted himself just outside the left post and easily tapped home a stellar Brad Marchand feed from the doorstep to put the Black & Gold ahead, 3-0, at 7:30 of the middle frame.
"I ended up a little lower," said Pastrnak, who added an empty-netter with 2:10 remaining for his 28th goal of the season. "I made eye contact with Marchy, so I was ready for a great pass by him…we had some looks. We got a good goal. Lately we've been getting chances but no goals. It was getting a little bit frustrating, so good for us that we got a goal."
With his assist on Pastrnak's goal, Marchand reached the 50-point plateau (18 goals, 32 assists), making him the first Bruins player to hit that mark in 34 games or fewer since Adam Oates in 1995-96 (14-36-50 in 31 games).
Video: BOS@FLA: Pastrnak buries Marchand's terrific pass
Righting the Ship
Though the Bruins only took one win out of the road trip, Cassidy has been pleased with his team's efforts over the last three games. Boston's bench boss pointed to Saturday's victory, as well as back-to-back 3-2 losses to Washington and Tampa Bay, as better examples of how he expects his club to play on a regular basis.
"It looks like we're getting back to more Boston Bruins style of hockey the last three games," said Cassidy. "Only one win to show for it, but if we play that way this week at home, I see good things for us, especially if all four lines are contributing.
"I will tell you, there was a week, say three weeks ago, where we might have gotten three wins and we didn't play as well as we did the last three games. The process is important.
"As I said, you need points, you need wins. There's no consolation prizes, but at this time of the year, where we are in the standings, we wanted to get our game more solid and more in tune with how we play."
Now, the Bruins will try to carry on that momentum as they head back to TD Garden for a four-game homestand (Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Nashville, and Washington) leading into the Christmas break.
"It's one of those things where now we're going home and not necessarily happy with how the road trip went, but you kind of go how your last game goes," said DeBrusk. "It's obviously nice to come home until Christmas. Coming back home feeling good about ourselves is always a good thing, especially when things weren't looking too good there."
Video: Bruins, 4 - Panthers, 2