Putting it together
Well-rounded victory a first for the Bruins
If there is a word to describe the 2009-10 Bruins season, it would be disjointed.
When the offense was putting pucks behind opposing goalies early in the season, the let-’em-in defense was allowing clubs like Washington and Anaheim to abuse the back of the Boston net. When they needed timely saves from their goalies, the Bruins weren’t getting them. When their goaltending and defense were sharp, the league-worst power play let them down. When they needed some snarl to their lifeless game, there was barely a flicker of emotional engagement. And when their defense was good and they were getting scoring chances, their shooters couldn’t finish to save their lives.
So that’s why the Bruins’ 4-2 win over Buffalo at TD Garden Saturday was especially satisfying for a club that had lost three straight games in which it had allowed only four goals.
Tuukka Rask was solid between the pipes. Zdeno Chara and his defensive mates kept lethal left wing Thomas Vanek off the scoresheet. The power play, which had been turned aside in 20 straight attempts, cashed in on its first two opportunities. Marco Sturm, who had bunches of scoring chances against Detroit and Montreal that he couldn’t finish, buried a second-period one-timer after a deft Patrice Bergeron feed that halted Buffalo’s momentum. Chara, who didn’t have a goal to his name all year after potting 19 last season, hummed home a one-timer that skimmed off Henrik Tallinder.
And when Steve Montador came calling in the first, Paul Gaustad ran over Byron Bitz in the third, and Jochen Hecht got a little too close to Rask in the final period, Shawn Thornton (two fights) and Mark Stuart dispatched their combatants.
“Whenever you fight, you hope that it helps and doesn’t hurt,’’ Thornton said of his first-period bout with Montador, which took place with the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead. “You’ve got to give credit to my teammates in that situation for stepping up and making me look good instead of bad. It’s 1-0 us. If the guys laid an egg and they score, then I look like an idiot. So I thank my teammates for really showing up and feeding off it instead of letting them have momentum.’’
The Bruins got things going against Jhonas Enroth, the 21-year-old goalie recalled from Portland of the AHL earlier in the week. Ryan Miller, one of the NHL’s top three goalies this season, was coming off a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia and due a breather. Patrick Lalime, the veteran No. 2 goalie, was shelved with a groin injury. So it was time for the 5-foot-10-inch, 166-pound Enroth to make his NHL debut against a team that was shooting blanks but seemed just inches from finishing its chances.
The Bruins took advantage of the situation by getting bodies in front of Enroth and playing their puck-possession game. Enroth, however, didn’t seem to be shaken. The Bruins could have found the back of the net several more times - ex-Sabre Daniel Paille had a shorthanded breakaway, Bergeron had a close-range bid, Blake Wheeler had a partial breakaway - but Enroth stoned the point-blank chances.
“Tough break, but he played a heck of a game,’’ said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. “We gave them some pretty good rush opportunities and some breakaway opportunities, and he stood pretty tall for us. You’ve got to give him credit for hanging in there. We got down a couple pretty quick and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it. And he only gave up two the rest of the way. He gave us a chance.’’
The Bruins, given a rest day yesterday, resume practice today at Ristuccia Arena to prepare for tomorrow’s home game against Pittsburgh. The Penguins will be concluding a four-game road swing that hasn’t been kind the defending Stanley Cup champions. Last Thursday, Pittsburgh dropped a 5-2 decision to Los Angeles. On Saturday, the Sharks laid a 5-0 beating on the Penguins in a game in which puck-moving defenseman Kris Letang departed with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh is already without Evgeni Malkin (shoulder), Sergei Gonchar (wrist), Maxime Talbot (shoulder), and Tyler Kennedy (groin).
But the Penguins, with Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, and Marc-Andre Fleury, remain a dangerous club, capable of bringing the blues back to Boston. One of the Bruins’ shortcomings has been their inability to string together consistent efforts. They have yet to win consecutive games.
“I’ve felt that our team has been working hard in the last couple of weeks and probably been deserving of a better fate,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “When you don’t score and you don’t win games, you have to find a way to keep your team focused, being believers, and knowing that if you stick with it, some day it will turn. Hopefully it’s a start. We all know we have a much bigger game against Pittsburgh. But right now, you have to enjoy the win and enjoy the way you did it.’’
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.