Winger right on target as Bruins nail down win
Marco Sturm is used to putting pucks on net. On Nov. 5 against Montreal, he blasted seven shots on Carey Price. On Oct. 12, he ripped off five on Colorado’s Craig Anderson.
Sturm, however, has had a history of seeing quality scoring chances turn into nothing. The legs have been good. He has driven to the net. But too often, as in those shooting-gallery games against Montreal and Colorado, a snakebitten Sturm has come back with only zeros.
That wasn’t the case last night.
Sturm led all players with nine shots on Mike Smith, two of them beating the Tampa Bay netminder. Sturm recorded his first multi-goal game of 2009-10, while linemates Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi recorded 3-point nights, and Tim Thomas turned back 39 of 40 shots as the Bruins recorded a 4-1 win over the Lightning before 16,553 at TD Garden.
“I felt it right from the start,’’ said Sturm, who has a team-high eight goals. “Right from the first shift, we had a good one there. We kept it going after that.’’
In the second period, with the Bruins up, 2-0, Sturm scored his first goal. Smith stopped Sturm’s first shot, but the goalie couldn’t handle the puck cleanly. With help from Recchi, who was whacking away from the lip of the crease, Sturm shook off the backcheck of Martin St. Louis, hunted down his rebound, and pushed the puck through Smith and over the line at 13:36.
“When the puck was in the goalie’s pads, he outmuscled him,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve been asking our guys to do a little bit more - stay in there, stay in the battle, hold your ground, and stay on top of the puck. I think he did that. Those are some of the things that our team needed to get better at. Marco did it and got rewarded.’’
Less than three minutes later, Sturm struck again. Recchi started the play when he tracked down Andrej Meszaros, who was lugging the puck out of the defensive zone, and stapled the defenseman to the boards. When Meszaros coughed up the puck, Recchi recovered it and sprung Bergeron for a three-on-one.
Bergeron spotted Sturm sprinting toward the far post, and the left wing had no trouble burying the feed at 16:09.
Earlier this season, Sturm had stumbled through a 12-game goal-scoring slump in which he gave his center, either Bergeron or Marc Savard, little punch on the wing. With the Bruins down a left wing in Milan Lucic (sprained left ankle), they need Sturm to provide the lamp-lighting touch he exhibited last night.
“Tonight, what I saw anyway, was that he was a lot stronger on the puck,’’ said Julien. “The tip was a real good tip. I know he missed a real nice one, too, last game where it went just a little wide. But driving to the net is No. 1.’’
At the other end, Thomas wanted to show his best stuff. Last Saturday, making his first start since Nov. 14, Thomas saw Ottawa’s Milan Michalek score a bad-angle goal in the final minute of regulation. The Bruins would win in the shootout, 4-3, but Thomas faulted himself for giving up the goal and allowing the Senators to record a point.
“Bouncing back with a strong game right after is very important,’’ Thomas said. “Ask any athlete. If you have one of those situations where you make a mistake or you come up short, the best thing to do is hop right back on the horse and have a strong one.’’
In the first period, after Savard (200th career goal, tucking a backhand power-play shot through Smith) and Bergeron gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead, the go-go Lightning were on the verge of halving Boston’s advantage. Alex Tanguay, skating down the left wing, slipped a cross-crease pass through traffic to Jeff Halpern.
Thomas, who had to respect Tanguay’s release, found himself scrambling from right to left to snuff out Halpern’s shot. As Halpern fired, Thomas dived to his left, in an all-out extension, and covered the puck at 14:14.
“He had an open net,’’ said Zdeno Chara (two assists). “Timmy never gives up on pucks like that, and he made a hell of a save. That could be a breaking point in the game, because if they get back into the game with scoring a goal, that would make it 2-1. It was pretty close to the end of the first period, and we would mentally give them that energy and that boost.
“But Timmy made a save. Then we scored early in the second with the third and fourth goals. So you can really call that a breaking save of the game or the breaking point of the game.’’