Bruins' up-and-down power play ends on high note

Bruins' up-and-down power play ends on high note
February 11, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Patrice Bergeron is congratulated by his teammates after connecting on the power play Sunday night, February 10, at Buffalo.

(AP Photo)

BUFFALO – It appeared that Sunday’s road game against the Sabres was going to become another cautionary tale of woe and lost opportunities for the Boston power play.

The Bruins had been 0-for-3 through the first two periods of play on the man advantage, and hadn’t generated much offensive juice despite the coaching staff throwing out some new combinations on the two PP units.

Even worse the Bruins gagged on a power play late in the second period after Chris Bourque had drawn a tripping penalty near the blue line on Mike Weber. The Bruins didn’t finish with a single shot on net during the two minutes of PP time and allowed the Sabres to hem them into the defensive zone as the man advantage expired. Twenty seconds later Buffalo had capitalized on the momentum-changing special teams play and Tyler Ennis had a game-tying score on a couple of defensive miscues in his own zone where Dougie Hamilton looked every bit a 19-year-old rookie.

But the good news for the Bruins and their put upon power play is that Patrice Bergeron hit pay dirt with a power play game-winner in the third period that led the Black and Gold to a 3-1 victory at the First Niagara Center. As futile as the special teams unit appeared in the first 40 minutes, they cashed in and executed when they had to seven minutes into the final period.

It wasn't a picturesque tic-tac-toe play with the puck, but it didn't need to be in order win Boston the game.

“It was nice to get a goal there,” said Brad Marchand. “We’ve been struggling a little bit lately [on the power play] and we’ve been working hard on it the last few days. It really paid off in the third period.”

Bergeron won an offensive zone face-off and Rich Peverley worked the puck over to Chris Bourque at the high point. Bourque fired wide left with a shot that bounced off bodies in front before kicking left of the net, but the puck rebounded hard off the end boards back to Bergeron as he crashed down on the net.

The Bruins two-way center fired to beat a recovering Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller from the slot, and Boston had that elusive power play goal after going four plus games without one. The Bruins went into Sunday’s game ranked dead-last in the NHL with a power play that was scoring only 8.8 percent of the time, and hope that a good bounce can change their fortunes a bit while pumping them back up over a 10 percent success rate.

The Bruins players knew that finally converting on the power play was the only way to erase the bad vibes their special teams unit created in the middle 20 minutes of the hockey game. It was also the merciful ending they were looking for on a power play that had gone 0-for-17 and hadn’t produced a goal since a Jan. 28 road win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

It's a tiring variation on the same theme the Black and Gold has been working on for at least two years, but at least the power play worked when they needed it most. 

“It’s going to hit a stick or it’s going to hit a body . . . something,” said Bergeron. “Yeah, we know that we need to be better [on the power play]. But it was good to get a lucky bounce, so we’ll take it.

“We need to get momentum and we didn’t do that in the first two periods. We had to [get momentum] in the third [period] and even thought it wasn’t the prettiest goal we found a way.”

Julien admitted following the game that the power play can look disorganized at times, but things come down to player execution at the end of the day. The Bruins didn't have in the first two periods when they had four cracks at the special teams challenge and came up entirely empty. Rusty hands and players still looking for their touch were viable excuses at the start of a very unusual season, but the Bruins are nearly a month into the NHL season at this point.

It's about results rather than excuses, and the power play has had much more of one than the other over the last few seasons. 

“I don’t think all power play goals are beautiful goals,” said Julien. “We’ve had our chances and we haven’t capitalized on them. At the end it’s nice to get that break. We needed that one. I guess that’s what we’re trying to get out of our power play this year . . . some timely goals.”

It certainly could be a long time before anybody calls the Bruins power play a “beautiful” work of hockey art, but the Boston coaching staff will settle for clutch and timely if it leads to wins as it did on Sunday night.

 Beautiful might be nice too, though, come to think of it.