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With Back-to-Back Wins, Bruins Coming Around

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - With a 3-0 shutout of New Jersey on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins picked up two straight wins for the first time since Dec. 21 and 23.

They were coming off a 3-2 overtime win in Pittsburgh the night before. They had entered the night with a 1-5-1 record in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

Head Coach Claude Julien needed to see his team "play closer to what we're capable of."

The Black and Gold had shown spurts of strong play against the Penguins, but struggled significantly at times.

Luckily, the Bruins showed their confident side on Thursday night, dictating nearly the entire 60 minutes, outshooting the Devils 43-14 and earning Niklas Svedberg the 3-0 shutout.

"We seemed like a real focused and energized team," said Julien, whose squad outshot New Jersey 18-3 in the first period for their largest "shots for" disparity of the season in single period.

"I think the biggest thing we did was we executed the way we were asked to execute and I thought coming in late last night [from Pittsburgh], the first period it was so important to get our legs under us."

"But what impressed me the most was how hard the guys worked to get back and the layers were there, so we didn’t give them much room or too many opportunities. So that was the kind of game we like to see our team play."

"You never consider yourself out of the woods, but certainly something that’s real positive to build on."

Game No. 42 against New Jersey kicked off the second half of the season for the Bruins.

They put themselves into a playoff position with the win in Pittsburgh. It was important to carry over that energy, especially with the back-to-back situation.

With just 1:10 left in the first period, Milan Lucic drove in a power-play tally to put the Bruins on the board after a dominant first period. David Krejci and Torey Krug provided the assists, with Zdeno Chara planted right in front of Cory Schneider and David Pastrnak providing the high screen in the slot.

"I think that we were skating well and we were playing with a lot of urgency and a lot of jump right from the start of the game," said the Captain. "I thought we controlled the play and made some solid, strong plays. We got the lead like we wanted."

The Bruins now have six power-play goals in their past nine games.

"We tried some plays early on the first power play, some little plays and then we decided to come with more shots on net," said Chara of the adjustment on their third man advantage of the game. "First chance we had, Milan just put a nice wrister in and obviously I was just trying to screen and took the goalie's eyes that way."

Lucic would end up potting the empty-netter as well, giving the Bruins 3-0 insurance late in the game. Patrice Bergeron fed him two-on-one for his eighth goal of the season.

"I think when he plays like that, he’s definitely created a lot of chances for himself, but also for his teammates," Bergeron said of Lucic's straight line game, and upped tempo as of late. "Definitely what we need from him, he’s definitely stepped up his game the last two games, for sure."

While only having a 1-0 lead, the Bruins continued to push the pace in the second period, again outshooting the Devils, 11-4.

Carl Soderberg made it 2-0 with 12:53 left in the second. The goal came off a strong forecheck from Chris Kelly. Soderberg grabbed the loose puck off the side boards, and made a nice move to the slot, ripping one past Schneider. By the end of the night, he led all skaters with six shots on goal.

"Our forecheck had to be better in order to spend more time and not let teams come out so easily," said Julien. "So [Kelly] did a great job on that forecheck, forcing the guy to turn the puck over and Carl – who had also a real good game, scored a big goal for us."

"But Kells is always going to be Kells. He’s not flashy and sometimes underrated by a lot of people, but we know how important he is."

"He’s really important for our line. He’s skilled and he creates a lot of good forechecks, too, so I think we play really good together," said Soderberg.

Reilly Smith joined the line on Soderberg's right wing for the game, with Loui Eriksson sidelined after taking a slash in Wednesday's game against Pittsburgh. It's believed to be just a short-term injury.

"It’s pretty natural to play with all the guys on the team because we play the same system, all of us, so we just try to fill in some spots," Soderberg said of the line switches that have been more frequent this season than in years past. "We have changed, mixed up the lines lately a lot, but I think we’ve created some chemistry quite quick."

Last season, Kelly-Soderberg-Smith had been pegged as the Bruins' possible third line before Eriksson's injury bumped Smith up with Brad Marchand and Bergeron.

The Bruins' four line attack, no matter the combinations, was an asset on Thursday night.

Marchand, Krejci and Pastrnak - playing in his sixth NHL game - formed a trio, with Lucic, Bergeron and Daniel Paille remaining together as a line after a strong game in Pittsburgh. Jordan Caron, Gregory Campbell and Craig Cunningham rounded out the fourth line.

"I’m not going to change anything until I feel the need to change things, but Danny is skating as good as I’ve seen him skate so far this year," said Julien. "He seemed energized and Looch is finding his game again. So, that line’s been good for us and the other lines too are good."

"You know, Krech is playing with different players, trying to find him some players that have chemistry with him and Marchy has had some. Pastrnak, his skating put their D’s on their heels. So, you know, again – I thought four lines, six D’s did a great job for us tonight in winning this hockey game."

Apart from a span of about three minutes to end the second period, in which the Devils brought their first real sustained pressure of the game, the Bruins dictated the play.

"We kept going and we never lost the pace of our game," said Julien.

"I think that you’ve got to give Boston tremendous credit," said Devils GM and President Lou Lamoriello. "We know they come right at you."

Even in the third period, the Bruins didn't fall back on their heels, picking up a 14-7 shots advantage. They played to win.

"Obviously a great job by our team," said Svedberg, who had a light night between the pipes. "Sometimes it's nice to feel the puck a little bit, especially early on, but you know, I'm not going to complain, the guys did a great job and we got the win, so I'm happy."

The Bruins kept the puck mostly to the outside around Svedberg, and mostly out of their zone.

"I think we played a really good offensive game, good forechecks and we hung on to pucks, that was pretty much it," said Soderberg.

When the Bruins play a simple game like that, getting pucks in and getting pucks out, they find success.

"That’s how we want to play and that’s how we usually play when we’re winning," Soderberg added. "That’s exactly the way we want to play and we want to roll four lines and just keep that pressure going."

With a pair of wins, and a spot back in the playoff picture, the Bruins have been feeling a sense of relief around the room. That doesn't mean they feel out of the clear. It just gives them the confidence to keep chipping away.

"It seems like the guys don’t feel the pressure as much as they had," said Julien. "You know, they don’t seem as tight. I could see that, not only in the forecheck, but also in the execution."

"From our D’s and how they used each other and made good first passes and everything else. You go through those situations during the season that’s really hard to explain, and the one thing I know is that confidence in your play is always a big part of it."

"Sometimes you lose it and it takes you a long time it back, and when you start feeling good about yourself I think your energy, your legs get back as well."

Amidst plenty of talk this week about a lack of passion and an unacceptable start to the season, it's easy to see past the fact that the Bruins are now on a six-game point streak. They have felt their game coming.

But this two-game stretch on its own has provided more concrete evidence of that turnaround.

"The first 40 or so games were definitely not the way we wanted to play, we wanted to start new," said Bergeron. "We can’t have one game that you’re happy with, then have a tough one right after, especially on a back-to-back."

"We made another step forward," said Chara. "We’re not there yet - we've just got to continue to work really hard and stay on top of our game."

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