Spark from Marchand helps ignite Bruins
There was a time last summer, and even in training camp, when Brad Marchand’s NHL paycheck was in question. Some of the Bruins’ coaches and front-office bosses projected him as the 13th forward, and they wouldn’t have been surprised had Marchand started the season in Providence.
After last night’s 7-5 win over Philadelphia — the Eastern Conference’s best team — before 17,565 at TD Garden, Marchand’s AHL future, and perhaps even his spot on the fourth line, are in serious danger.
In the third period, Marchand tied the game by beating Flyers goalie Brian Boucher at 11:26. Later in the third, after a ferocious forecheck on Matt Carle, Marchand had perhaps the best view in the rink — right next to the Philadelphia net — of Steven Kampfer’s game-winning goal.
Only full-time NHLers make those kinds of contributions.
“It was a very nerve-racking game,’’ Marchand said. “It was so back and forth. When Kamp got that goal to put us back in the lead with a minute left, it was an unbelievable feeling. We were very jacked up. It’s a great win for us.’’
For most of the season, Marchand had been skating on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton in even-strength situations. But with injuries to Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, the coaching staff promoted Marchand to a skilled line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Given how much of an offensive spark the rookie has given the Bruins since the promotion, it’s unlikely Marchand will be sliding back down the lineup soon.
In the third period, after Danny Briere and Sean O’Donnell flipped a 4-3 Boston advantage into a 5-4 Flyer lead, Marchand halted the visitors’ momentum.
Blake Wheeler handled the puck down the left wing and dropped a pass for Marchand in the slot. Marchand, recognizing that O’Donnell was screening Boucher, quickly whipped a shot between the defenseman’s legs. Boucher (30 saves) didn’t see Marchand’s shot until it was too late.
“I didn’t really look,’’ Marchand said. “I just wanted to get it away. I thought maybe I’d be able to catch him off guard and use the defenseman as a screen. I don’t think he saw it very well. It found the net.’’
After Marchand’s goal, the Flyers complained that one of the Boston defensemen had banked the puck over the glass. Had the play been caught, the Bruins would have been whistled for delay of game.
“It should have been a power play for us, then it turned into a goal for them,’’ said Briere. “It’s a bad break. It’s like the turnover of the game. But what are you going to do?’’
Just over seven minutes later, Marchand made things happen again, this time with his legs. As Carle tried to settle the puck behind the Philadelphia net, Marchand barreled in on the forecheck.
Under Marchand’s pressure, Carle was forced to rim the puck around the boards instead of making a crisp outlet pass or carrying it out of the zone. Kampfer pounced on the rim, let a snapper loose, and netted the game-winning goal.
“That was a roller coaster,’’ said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. “Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t work out that way. You’ve got to roll with the punches, and we did a good job with that.’’
One of the weaknesses of the Bruins lately had been their inconsistent offense. One line would click, but the other three would go silent. One of their stars would get hot, but his supporting cast would disappear.
Over the last seven periods — a span in which the Bruins have scored 17 goals — no such problems have existed.
Last night, Bergeron, Recchi, Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, and Campbell joined Marchand and Kampfer on the scoresheet. The Bruins ripped 37 shots on goal, including Campbell’s last-minute empty-netter. They blasted 11 shots on the power play, including Chara’s first-period strike during a two-man advantage.
They even got some assistance from the friendly home boards. In the opening minute of the third, Recchi’s dump-in took a fortunate bounce off the wall, catching Boucher out of his crease. As the puck bounced right back to his blade, Recchi had an empty-net tap-in at 0:38 to tie the game at 3.
Recchi’s goal was one of three the Bruins had to score to tie the game. At 18:16 of the first, after Scott Hartnell had given the Flyers a 1-0 lead, Chara tied the game for the first time with his power-play goal.
Prior to Recchi’s goal, Jeff Carter had beaten Thomas (30 saves) at 19:24 of the second to make it a 3-2 Philly advantage. Then at 7:41, O’Donnell joined the rush and scored for the first time this season to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead.
“I liked the way our guys battled back,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Even though defensively I thought we might have been a little bit sloppy or not as good as we have been, we still battled hard. We still found a way to score some goals.
“At the end of the night, that’s all you can ask for when you beat a team like the Flyers, who are obviously a very good team this year and are playing so well. At the end of the night, you take the 2 points and you appreciate it.’’