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Drew Stafford fitting in with Bruins

Forward's game-winning goal against Flyers fourth point in four games for Boston

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- He has slipped into the lineup and the team and the building as if he belonged all the time. There was not much of an adjustment, no wait, no question.

The move by the Boston Bruins -- acquiring forward Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional sixth-round pick at the trade deadline -- had surprised some, especially those used to doubting the current regime over the past two disappointing years. But this one? They liked this move. They liked the price that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney paid for Stafford, liked his potential, liked the sense of possibility that has opened up in Boston over the past month.

And Stafford has delivered, as he did on Saturday, scoring a goal with 5.6 seconds remaining in the third period to give the Bruins a 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. He has delivered before, too, adding that score to another goal and two assists in four games for Boston.

Not that he wanted to take credit for this one, which took some welcome help from Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning's stick on its way past goaltender Steve Mason.

"When you turn up and see the D-man's stick is perfectly aligned with where he would tip it in, it's geometry," Stafford said, joking.

"No, those kind of lucky bounces that you just get, you just take it and ride with it. The way this game was, we were pretty sloppy throughout. It was kind of a tough one for us. But this team -- I've only been here for a few games -- but I can tell that they know how to win games. Even when you're not playing your best, you find a way to win."

He had been dropped down in the lineup on Saturday, off the line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, where he had started to find a rhythm of late. Frank Vatrano was promoted, and Stafford found himself skating alongside Riley Nash and Matt Beleskey on the third line.

And that, too, seemed to work. It worked well enough that those three players were on the ice in the final seconds of the third period in a tie game.

With time winding down, Stafford skated the puck down the right side, turning and pivoting by the boards at the top of the circle. He made a full rotation by the time he decided to just put the puck on net, where it glanced off the stick of Manning.

Video: PHI@BOS: Stafford's shot deflects in for late lead

"You never know," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "You just never know, throwing it at the net. It's lucky, we all know that."

Stafford, at this point, doesn't mind a little luck. The forward has shown a knack for scoring, getting 20-plus goals four times, including 31 for the Buffalo Sabres in 2010-11. But with the Jets this season, Stafford had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 40 games.

So when he was asked whether moving to the Bruins has injected him with more energy and more jump in his offensive game, Stafford was realistic. "I don't know if you'd be asking me that same question if I didn't score that goal at the end there. Tonight was kind of a tough one."

But, he added, "I'm just grateful for an opportunity to at least play in that little bit more of an offensive role. I'm definitely comfortable playing wherever, but at the same time I also take a lot of pride in my offensive game, being able to contribute in any way I can. It's definitely a shot in the arm to get an opportunity to play with some pretty good players."

He hadn't gotten that many chances until the end in this one, hadn't created that much, which led to the drop in the lineup. But when it was the right moment and the conditions asked for it, Stafford did the savvy thing, he put the puck on Mason and on net and gave the Bruins a chance.

It worked.

"He's a smart player," Cassidy said. "Let's face it, he's got composure. That's a product of being in the League for 10 years and knowing you can score and make plays."

But perhaps it shouldn't have been all that surprising. Stafford has traditionally done some of his best work against the Bruins, scoring 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 48 career games.

"He's a great player," forward Brad Marchand said. "He always scored a lot in this building over the years. It's great to see him continue that success in here."

Whether his goal on Saturday was lucky or not, whether his season before he came to the Bruins was going well or not, whether this run for him and for the team ends soon -- or not -- the Bruins are more than happy to have Stafford and his luck on their side.

"Ninety-nine out of 100 times that's not going to go in," Stafford said, "So those kind of breaks, you'll take those, especially when things might not be going your way a certain night."

Video: DET@BOS: Stafford snipes home first goal with Bruins

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