Bruins get an assist
Savard returns, but Bergeron steals show
ST. LOUIS - Last night, after missing more than a month because of a broken left foot, Marc Savard made his return to the Bruins lineup against the Blues at the Scottrade Center and contributed the following: zero goals, zero assists, zero points, 16:30 of ice time, and one third-period wipeout.
“Tripped up there and did a double salchow coming in. Got excited,’’ said Savard, who stumbled over his skates after taking an offensive-zone pass from Marco Sturm.
Savard, whose game is expectedly not at its peak, might have been absent on the score sheet. But the No. 1 center was at the heart of last night’s 4-2 victory, which stretched the Bruins’ winning streak to a season-high three games.
One of the reasons the Bruins marched to the regular-season Eastern Conference crown last season was because of their depth up the middle. As Pittsburgh rolled out Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal, the Bruins had their own three-center attack in Savard, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci. Last night, with Savard back atop the No. 1 line, the Bruins were once again three deep at center, this time with Bergeron keying the offense.
Bergeron assisted on all four goals - two power-play strikes, one even-strength goal, and one shorthanded score.
“It’s huge having Marc back at center,’’ said Blake Wheeler, who netted a second-period power-play goal. “It just gives us tremendous depth at our center position. We have four really great centers. When you add a high-scoring, prolific center like Savvy in there, it just adds a different dimension to our team. It gives all four lines more breathing room. You can’t just key on the line that’s playing the best that night. You have to respect all four lines. So having him in there was a big difference tonight. It’s only a matter of time before he starts working his magic.’’
Consider the following: Before Savard’s return, the power play was the second-worst in the league, sputtering along at 13.2 percent. Bergeron and Wheeler both had skated on the first unit. But with Savard back, coach Claude Julien was able to drop Bergeron and Wheeler to the second unit, which netted both power-play goals last night.
In the first period, the No. 2 unit got the Bruins on the board. Chris Mason stopped Bergeron’s initial shot from the slot. But Mark Recchi, positioned at the edge of the crease, whacked the mid-air rebound past Mason at 11:00 to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Then in the second, after Keith Tkachuk had tied the score in the first (the Bruins had to weather a 16-6 St. Louis shot advantage in the first 20 minutes), Boston reclaimed the advantage with its second power-play goal in as many chances. Bergeron skated down the right wing, drew the penalty-killing box his way, then spotted Wheeler on the other side of the ice. He slipped an against-the-grain pass through the box to Wheeler, who took his time, reared back, and snapped a shot past Mason at 3:02.
“Our power play scores two goals tonight, and ironically Savvy’s not on the ice for either one of them,’’ Julien said. “It just goes to show that there’s more in our dressing room than just one player. But still him coming back and giving us that look on one power play, and being able to move some guys around and making both power plays work pretty good was important for us. It was nice to get that going. Although we’ve been playing better, it’s been a thorn in our side. Our power play just hasn’t been good enough.’’
Carlo Colaiacovo made it a 2-2 game when he tucked Brad Boyes’s backhand dish behind Tuukka Rask (29 saves) at 7:37 of the second. But Milan Lucic scored his second goal in as many games when he tipped a Zdeno Chara shot past Mason at 12:10, making it a 3-2 game. Again, Bergeron was involved, starting the play by sending a pass up the wall to Chara.
By the third period, St. Louis coach Andy Murray had seen enough of Bergeron lighting up his defense. Murray started the game by matching his checking line of Patrik Berglund, Jay McClement, and B.J. Crombeen against Savard’s line. But in the third, Murray sent out McClement and his linemates against Lucic, Bergeron, and Recchi.
The Blues had a chance to tie the score when Shawn Thornton was caught for high-sticking Barret Jackman at 9:47 of the third. But Bergeron struck again, this time reading Mason when the goalie came out to clear the puck. As the first forechecker, Bergeron anticipated that Mason would go up the right-side wall. He picked off Mason’s pass and slid the puck to Sturm, who beat the goalie with a forehander for the backbreaking shorthanded goal at 11:14.
“What you see tonight is what you get every night,’’ Julien said. “He just works extremely hard. Some nights will go better than others. But he’s been reliable. Best faceoff man. We use him in all situations. Late in games. Power plays. PKs. He’s been doing it all. He’s been a big part of our success this year because of the way he’s handled himself.’’