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Team Game Gets Bruins Back on Track

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - It was what the Bruins needed.

After dropping their first two games of the road trip through California the had been labeled on more than one occasion as a "challenge," the Black & Gold pulled out a gutsy effort, shutting out the San Jose Sharks 1-0 on Saturday night.

"That was Bruins hockey," said Tuukka Rask, following his fifth shutout of the season. "That's how we get points in this league. Sometimes we slip from it, but [this game] was a great example of how we need to play in order to get points."

"Tuukka made the big saves when we needed him and so he was back to being himself as well, but again, he plays well when everybody else plays well in front of him," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "It was a team win, from the back end to the front end."

One goal was the difference maker, in a game that was scoreless until 12:25 into the third period, when Carl Soderberg put home his sixth of the season after Loui Eriksson's shot deflected to the winger who made sure to be around the net.

Eriksson was making his return to the Bruins' lineup, having missed 15 games while recovering from his concussion. Shawn Thornton was also back in the lineup, returning from his suspension.

After allowing nine goals in their previous two losses to Anaheim and LA, due mostly in part to major breakdowns, the Bruins' focus was on what Thornton calls the "old adage" of keeping it simple, and working hard.

"You can work hard, but you also have to have that confidence, that swagger that comes with your hockey club when you're feeling good about yourself and I think that's the part we've got to recapture," Julien had said, heading into the matchup with the Sharks.

"We're looking at our team and as individuals, we want to find our game. In order to find that game, you've got to earn that."

"You've got to go out there and fight for it. You just can't expect that it's going to come back automatically."

There wasn't much space all night, with both teams heavy on their sticks and plenty of battling along the boards. In the second period, each team could only get six shots on goal. When the shots did get through, Rask and Antti Niemi came up with the timely stops.

The better defensive effort in front of Rask, though, is what helped Boston produce the desired result.

"It's a 0-0 game, just more happy with the win, you know?" the Bruins netminder said, on the shutout. "But I'm happy with how we played defense today; we eliminated those mistakes we had the first two games, which were huge. And we didn't do those and it resulted in a win so a shutout is always good but it's a tight game and just happy to get the win."

The Sharks don't make it easy. They are extremely hard on the forecheck and take the walls away. Boston saw that firsthand in the opening frame against a team that has been known to come out with strong starts at the SAP Center, where they had only one loss in regulation until the Bruins came to town.

In the second period, the Bruins' defenders began to pinch more, resulting in longer offensive zone time. But still, the chances weren't coming easily.

"They usually play really good defensively and they've been playing really good in this rink too so we just stuck with it and Tuukka made some really good saves for us too back there," said Eriksson, of his netminder who finished the night with 26 saves.

"And that made us confident and we were able to score the one goal there to win the game."

Eriksson eased back into the lineup on a line with Soderberg and Ryan Spooner.

"Healthy-wise, I felt really good," he said.

"It's nice to be back playing again and to be around all of the guys playing. It's definitely nice to get the two points, too, so it was a good first time."

"That experienced player on that line helps stabilize things a bit and for a guy like Spooner," said Julien, of Eriksson's responsible, veteran presence. "It's good to have two guys on each side of him that have that experience."

The goal that ultimately made the difference developed with Spooner's speed through the neutral zone, a simple chip-in, and battling in the corner from both Soderberg and Spooner to pop the puck out to Eriksson in the slot. After the shot was deflected, Soderberg's quick hands did the rest.

"We didn't create scoring chances easily, because they were a really strong team like us, but I'm glad we got the last one," said Soderberg.

After Rask had to make 12 saves in the first, he made 14 through the final two periods, and didn't see the major mistakes in front of him that he had seen in the previous two games. Julien was pleased to see those mental breakdowns reduced as well.

"Our game was much better in a lot of areas; we kind of asked our guys just to do their jobs and do them well," said Julien. "You know, I think we had some guys who were trying to do other people's jobs because they felt that they weren't going well enough and eventually, everybody's got to take that responsibility, so I thought the guys responded well."

"We talked to our guys about taking care of their own end first and foremost. When you give up nine goals in two games, you know that it's got to be better and they did that, and we scored a timely goal."

The victory stopped the Bruins from going 0-3 on the road this week, and set them up for a return home against Toronto on Tuesday night, before heading right back on the road to Dallas and Chicago.

"It's about pride too," said Rask. "You know, you come on these road trips and lose the first two games so you don't want to get swept. We talked about it, gave a sharp effort, and it paid off with the win."

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