Bruins engineer comeback with goalie pulled

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Bruins engineer comeback with goalie pulled

BOSTON -- Forty eight seconds was all it took to transform the Bruins from frustrated losers to stubborn competitors that salvaged a point where none had been just a minute before.

With the Bruins trailing by a 3-1 score with less than two minutes remaining in the contest, Claude Julien pulled goalie Tuukka Rask from the game and the Bruins scored two goals with the extra skaters to push overtime before falling by a 4-3 score in the shootout at TD Garden.

It was the first time the Bruins had scored twice with the goaltender pulled since Oct. 24, 2009 when they turned a 3-1 deficit against the Ottawa Senators into a 4-3 shootout victory.

It was wild. The fans are incredible, and it just seemed like once we got that first one (David Krejcis goal), we knew we were going to tie it up, said Brad Marchand, who scored the game-tying goal with 43 seconds to go in the third period. We just kept going, and its always fun having a game like that in our rink.

It just seems like our fans are so up for it and really enjoy it. Its just too bad we couldnt finish it off.

Mad scrambles in front of the New York Rangers net turned into goals for Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand, and Boston still only has one regulation loss in 11 games to start the season. Bruins players were happy they managed to get a point while becoming the first NHL team to come back from a three-goal deficit, but also a little peeved they had to author a furious comeback in the first place.

Its nice, for sure, to get the point. I think everybody is proud to get the point, said Andrew Ference. But I think if you went around the room a majority of guys are just ticked off that we spotted them the three goals. During the season you know those games happen where youre going to have to fight back and you have some breakdowns.

"I guess you focus on the positives, which was a good job at the end of jumping on loose pucks and really putting the pressure on.

A couple of guys came through by burying those chances, finally. It was a funny game. It was a weird game.

Midway through the third period a David Krejci goal cut Bostons deficit to 3-1 and gave the Bruins signs of life after theyd simply made too many mistakes in the first two periods. But things really got interesting once the Bruins pulled Rask from the game with less than two minutes in the third period. Andrew Ference teed up for a shot from the right point that Henrik Lundqvist made the initial save on, and Milan Lucic kept the puck alive when it bounced off his massive power forward body in front of the net.

The loose puck bounced right to Nathan Horton in front of the net and the right wing flipped the shot in for his fourth goal of the season to make it a 3-2 hockey game. Less than a minute later Patrice Bergeron had the puck in the slot and spotted Tyler Seguin wide open on the left wing for a potential game-tying goal.

Bergerons pass bounced off Ryan Callahans stick in front of the net and went right back to Brad Marchand in the right face-off circle. The Nose Face Killah cranked a wrist under the bar for the game-tying score and TD Garden went absolutely bonkers after watching the kind of comeback this batch of Bruins players have made believable.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.