BUFFALO - It seems like there will be extreme ebbs and flows to Benoit Pouliot's experience with the Boston Bruins.
One game after getting benched in the third period for taking several wild penalties at the Bell Centre in his first game back in Montreal against his former Canadiens team, Pouliot was back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Sabres. It was a bit of an eyebrow-raising decision by Claude Julien to go with Pouliot instead of rookie Jordan Caron, but it was also a clear show of faith in Pouliot.
"The benching wasn't about his performance. He was playing well in Montreal, but his emotions were getting the better of him," said Julien. "At that point he was becoming a little bit of a liability. So he went back in tonight. He's got a lot of skill and we've seen that in some of the shootouts in practice. This was nice, though, because maybe it gives him a little bit of confidence."
The faith was clearly rewarded when Pouliot played a solid game for the Bruins in Buffalo and supplied the shootout game-winner in a 4-3 victory in the fifth round of the shootout at the First Niagara Center. After watching offensive talents like Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron come away empty attempting to attack the five-hole and lower half of Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth, Pouliot went upstairs with a straight wrist shot and hit the back of the net so hard that the puck immediately shot back out like it had slammed pipe instead of twine.
The shot was by design, and Pouliot celebrated with an extended fist pump as his teammates stormed the ice in celebration after the clinching shot.
"It was good. I wasn't too sure what I was going to do, but halfway through you could see him going lower," said Pouliot. "So I decided to go high. Everybody shot low and I decided to go high with it and it went in."
"So that was good. It was tough early in the game because we were in the box a lot and it wasn't our fault. But we turned things around."
Pouliot managed three shots on net during his 12 plus minutes of ice time and continued to build up confidence as a third line grinder capable of occasional offense, but he also took an elbowing penalty that's becoming a pattern. Either way, Pouliot said he appreciated the confidence shown in him by his coach, and was happy to reward him with a clinching shootout attempt that gives the Bruins 10 straight wins.
"Sometimes it's bad breaks and you feel like you let your team down a bit. But I got a chance tonight in the shootout. I wasn't sure what I would do, but it went pretty well. It's frustrating when you're in the box and your teammates are out there trying to kill it off," said Pouliot. "You're just stressed out and worried when you're in the box. But I've got to give credit to my teammates for picking me up, and now we move on."