Consistent Boychuk makes most out of first goal

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Consistent Boychuk makes most out of first goal

BOSTON -- Throughout the Bruins' recent three-game losing skid in the midst of their underachieving 3-7 start, coach Claude Julien preached defense.

He preached it, because that is Boston's identity.

Quite simply, the defending-champion Bruins are a defensive team. From there, everything else falls into place.

As it did Tuesday in a slump-busting 5-3 win over Ottawa.

"Well, I thought we were better defensively," said Julien. "And I think it just kind of re-enforces what we've talked about the last few days. Our team's offense feeds off our team's defense."

Just not the way you would think, on Tuesday night.

The Bruins' defense improved, no doubt. But the offense got a lift from defenseman Johnny Boychuk.

Boychuk blasted a slap shot past Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson at 6:41 of the third period, giving Boston a 4-3 lead. It came just 1:37 after the Senators' Jared Cowen beat Tim Thomas with a shot from the point, which had tied the game at 3-3.

"We've been coming from behind a lot," said Thomas after the game. "This time was a lead where they tied it up, so it didn't seem to affect us that much. We just needed to respond. And we did fairly quickly."

Boychuk let go a blistering slap shot from the right point, with enough bodies out front to lead the puck past a screened Anderson and into the low-left corner of the net.

"There were a couple there where I just barely missed the net and then finally I got one through, and it hit the net and went in," said Boychuk after the win.

"I was just thinking, 'Hit the net.' Because I kept missing the net before that."

Boychuk was one of three Bruins players to finish the game as a plus-two. The others were fellow defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference.

As a defensive partner with Chara, Boychuk's play can sometimes be overlooked. But Julien praised him after Tuesday's win, mainly because of his consistency . . . something most of the team has lacked all season.

"I think Johnny's been one of our best defensemen so far, since the beginning of the year," said Julien. "He's consistent. He hasn't had the highs and lows that maybe some others have had, but he's been pretty good for us.

"I know he's a player that, in my eyes anyways, is still growing every year," added Julien. "Although he's only in his third year with us, he's a guy that just keeps going and going. I like his discipline and his way of playing guys hard. But at the same time, he has enough confidence to move the puck well.

"The goal he scored was a typical Johnny Boychuk shot, that you'd like to see even more."

It was Boychuk's first goal of the season, and as he pointed out after the win, it came a whole lot earlier than his first goal came last year.

"Obviously it feels a lot better, getting that first one by you," said Boychuk with a sense of relief. "Now you don't have to worry about it. I think last year it took me until January. So, a little bit better."

And for the Bruins, a team that almost desperately needed to find a way to re-capture a lead in the third period on Tuesday night, Boychuk's first goal of the year couldn't have come at a better time.

"We needed to win," said Thomas. "I don't know if it was a must-win game, because there's time left in the season. But we needed to win. We needed to start somewhere. And we did that tonight."

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

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Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.