BOSTON - Give Carl Soderberg credit. He made a bonehead of a mistake in the first period, and then atoned in the following period in the best way that he can. The Big Swede scored his first NHL goal to get the Bruins on the scoreboard, and played a key supporting role in Boston’s 3-2 shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at TD Garden.
It was a nice step forward for Soderberg after three very quiet, uneventful games with just one shot on net, and an unsightly turnover in the defensive zone that led to Anaheim’s first goal in the opening period.
Soderberg had the puck against the boards looking to break it out of the defensive zone, and chose to throw the puck to the middle of the ice rather than make the solid, simple chip up the boards. Dustin Penner intercepted the telegraphed pass, and two passes later Devante Pelly-Smith had scorched a shot past Tuukka Rask’s glove side just 1:52 into the game.
“Everyone knows he made a mistake by throwing it in the middle,” said Claude Julien.
That set up a first period where the Bruins managed just one shot on net for the first time in five years, and put Boston in a hole they wouldn’t fully climb out of until things were over in the shootout. But in the second period Soderberg struck on a play that started with new center Ryan Spooner feeding the puck up the ice to a streaking Chris Kelly in the neutral zone.
Kelly redirected the puck to a moving Soderberg, and the Big Swede simply slid the puck between Jonas Hiller’s pads as he crashed the Anaheim net. Once Soderberg knew it was a good goal, he raised both his arms high to the air as he looked up into the Garden rafters.
What was the 28-year-old Swede thinking at the time?
“Maybe relief,” said Soderberg. “[The goal] means a lot to me. I’ve been playing in Europe for ten years at the highest level there, but it’s still not the NHL. I came here at 28 years old, and I wanted to see if I could play in the NHL. I’m pretty glad I scored.”
Soderberg’s efforts against Tampa Bay and Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks were definitely proof positive “that Soderberg can play in the NHL”, and bouncing back from his early mistake vs. the Ducks was an encouraging sign.
“That’s what you want to see. He goes back and ties the game up, so it kind of wipes the slate pretty clean in my mind, and you go from there,” said Julien. “We had to battle right until the end, and we missed some pretty good chances too.
“When the momentum isn’t going your way and the confidence may not be at 100 percent, those are the kind of wins that sometimes you need to get your team going in the right direction again. It feels pretty good at the end of the night that you come out with a win, although it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but gutsy.”
Soderberg was kicking himself after the victory for failing to finish off his shootout attempt that could have clinched the two points for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins will settle for Swedish power forward that’s putting points on the board. That’s a pretty big relief that should allow him to put a little more thought and effort into possible goal-scoring celebrations moving forward in Boston.