Top line quietly makes big impact on Friday

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Top line quietly makes big impact on Friday

BOSTON -- Both Claude Julien and Zdeno Chara called their fourth line their best line, following Friday night's 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

And in the first two periods, Shawn Thornton, Greg Campbell, and Daniel Paille helped provide the first two Bruins goals.

Thornton and Campbell scored the goals, and Paille assisted on the first, getting a piece of a Dougie Hamilton shot from the point that was initially saved, but then followed up by Thornton for a rebound goal.

The Bruins' fourth line helped keep the game tied through the first two periods, for sure. But the game-winner was a product of the Bruins' top line. And while Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton may not have been the team's best trio for the first 40 minutes on Friday night, they've been providing plenty of big goals in the early stages of the lockout-shortened season.

Add Zdeno Chara's wrister from the top of the left circle to the list. Because not only was the captain's third-period snipe the game-winner, but it was set up by Krejci, Horton, and Lucic.

"We had some good traffic, and Looch made a really nice play," said Chara after the win. "So, it worked out really well."

Krejci took the puck over the blue line along the right boards, and dumped it in deep, where Horton picked it up in the right corner. As Horton turned with the puck back towards the right half-wall, he softly cycled it back behind the net to Lucic.

As Lucic took the pass behind the net while facing the glass, he faked Marty Reasoner left, and came back to his right, where he stepped out to the circle, turned and sent a pass through the slot to Chara above the left circle.

Afterwards, Lucic applauded Chara's effort to step up into open space, given the overloading defense that New York was playing.

"I'm looking for that guy right there, and Chara did a great job getting open," said Lucic. "If you can see, he seeped down to the top of the circles there, because a lot of teams now, when they overload in the defensive zone, they take away that strong-side D-man. So he did a great job getting open for me there, where I could make that pass.

"As much as it is a pass from me, it's him getting open and him giving me that outlet. And he did a great job of that."

That is true. But as much as it's Chara getting open, it's also Lucic -- and the rest of the Bruins' top forward line -- having the ability to step up in a big spot, and make a big play.

Lucic' pass can be considered a big play, at a big moment. It seems as if all three of his points (two goals and an assist) this season have been important.

Overall, the first line has been an important part of Boston's early-season success, even if most in the room are praising the fourth line for keeping them in the game on Friday.

It should also be noted that on Campbell's goal -- Boston's second of the game that tied it at 2-2 -- Krejci recorded the assist. His attempt to throw it on net was blocked by Islanders defenseman Joe Finley, and Campbell knocked in the loose puck.

That marked Krejci's third assist of the season. He didn't receive an assist on Chara's goal -- the game-winner that his line set up. But Krejci's screen out front of Rick DiPietro certainly played a factor.

"Krejci did a good job by just getting the puck in the zone, and then Horton did a good job creating that cycle," said Lucic. "And Chara did a great job finding that soft area where he could get open. Another goal tonight with a guy right in front of the net to create the screen. It was a good one to get us going in the third."

It got them going in the third, and it finished the Islanders off. Credit on this night will go to the fourth line.

But the game-winner also shows another solid showing from Claude Julien's top-three forwards.

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

Julien: 'A lot of problematic things' in Bruins loss to Avalanche

BOSTON – The Bruins simply weren’t ready to play on Thursday night when the puck was dropped against the Colorado Avalanche at TD Garden. 

They fell down quickly by a 2-0 score, had a couple of completely inept power plays in the first period that sucked all the game’s momentum away from them and received some subpar goaltending from Anton Khudobin on the way to a 4-2 loss to the lowly Avs. About the only B’s person above reproach in this one was David Pastrnak after scoring a pair of goals in the second period to get Boston back into the game, but it all fell short in a very frustrating, lackadaisical loss to a Western Conference team that isn’t very good. 

Needless to say B’s coach Claude Julien wasn’t too happy after a loss where the Bruins might have had more success with a smarter approach to holding the puck. 

“There were a lot of problematic things [in the loss]. No doubt that the power play could have helped us in the first period, and failed to do that. They’ve got to be better,” said Julien. “We needed some saves tonight, and we didn’t get them. [Anton Khudobin] has got to be better. 

“A lot of things here that we can be better at, and take responsibility [for]. But at the same time, you got to move on here.  It’s one of those nights that had we been smarter from the get go, we would have had a chance.”

Clearly it was about a lacking group effort when dissecting the loss, and the minus-3 for David Krejci on Thursday night marked back-to-back negative performances from the playmaking Czech center in big spots. The goaltending was shoddy with Anton Khudobin allowing four goals on 22 shots for Colorado, and unable to make plays on a couple of Colorado shots from outside the painted area that built up the Avs lead in the first place. 

But it was also very much about the inability of the Bruins to generate consistent offense outside of David Pastrnak’s offensive burst in the second period, and the complete breakdown of the Boston power play in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struggled to enter the zone in their first PP possession of the game, and then allowed a Nathan MacKinnon shorthanded goal after Torey Krug futilely dove at the blue line to try and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The Krug misplay at the offensive blue line gave MacKinnon a clear path the net, and he buried a wrist shot past Khudobin to get the one-sided loss rolling. Beyond the costly mistakes that ended up in the back of the net, the Bruins looked sloppy and slow-reacting in their breakouts and more than willing to settle for outside perimeter shots.

That doesn’t exactly make for a winning combo even when it comes against a flawed, underachieving team like Colorado, and especially when it comes less than 24 hours after a hard-fought road game in Washington DC. 

“I think we were still sleeping there early in the game and they were able to capitalize on their opportunities. We couldn’t claw our way back,” said Brad Marchand, who picked up an assist on David Pastrnak’s second goal of the night on a perfect dish for the one-timer. “I think it was definitely a mental [block]. You’re able to battle through that physical fatigue. It was more the mental mistakes and not being prepared right off the hop of the start of the game. Again, that’s kind of where we lost it.”

The sleepwalking Bruins lost Thursday night’s valuable two points as soon as the opening puck was dropped against the Avalanche, of course, and the Bruins never got out of lollygag mode at a time when intensity should have been automatic.