It has been quite a week in Boston.
Sunday, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Tuesday, the Patriots, and their fans celebrated with a parade while at the same time, the Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien and elevated assistant coach Bruce Cassidy to interim head coach. Thursday, the city got hit with a snowstorm that delivered 14 inches of snow and while that snow fell, the Bruins prepared to play their first game with a new coach since 2007. Thursday evening, the Bruins faced off against the San Jose Sharks – who lost to Pittsburgh in last season’s Stanley Cup Final – in what normally would have been another game during a long season on a snowy night in February but there was nothing normal about this game. It was a test. A test to see how the Bruins would respond with a new coach behind the bench and they passed it in a big way by defeating the Sharks 6-3 at TD Garden.
Cassidy shuffled the forward lines that included putting David Backes on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. All that trio did was produce three goals and six assists on the way to Boston’s win.
Bergeron accumulated one goal and three assists. Backes scored the first goal of the game and added two assists while Marchand scored into an empty-net to seal the victory after assisting on one of David Pastrnak’s two power play goals.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask turned aside 23 San Jose shots.
“I feel great,” Cassidy said after the game. “It’s been a busy two or three days, so I’ll tell you this, I’m going to sleep well tonight but tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll get back to work, and see if we can build on this one. But I mean, yeah, who doesn’t enjoy a win?”
“When I went out to the bench, the first thing I did was look up at the banners – the Stanley Cup Championship banners – and you know, I’ve been a lifelong Boston Bruins fan since I was this high. My first pair of skates were black and gold and I’ve loved Bobby Orr ever since and I could probably name every player in those Stanley Cup teams. I mean, I’ve had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life, so it’s a great honor for me to stand up there and be in charge, so it was a great night that way.”
All observers eagerly awaited to see how the Bruins would start the game after losing Julien. The Bruins answered their questions when Backes scored the game’s first goal 52 seconds into the game. It was his 12th goal of the season which was assisted by Torey Krug and David Krejci.
Boston set the pace and controlled much of the play after Backes’ goal but the Sharks tied the game at 7:51 when former Bruins captain Joe Thornton scored his 4th of the season assisted by Tomas Hertl.
For those who rhetorically ask, “Why can’t the Bruins get a player like Thornton?” Well, early in the 2005-2006 season, former Boston general manager Mike O’Connell made the decision that Patrice Bergeron was the player that a Stanley Cup champion could be built around instead of Thornton and O’Connell sent Thornton to the Sharks on November 30, 2005. Worked out pretty well for Boston, didn’t it?
Bergeron gave his club a 2-1 lead at the 17:52 mark of the period. Backes and Brandon Carlo assisted on the goal which was the 14 of the season for Bergeron.
Boston went on a power play at 17:03 when San Jose had too many men on the ice. Pastrnak took advantage of the situation by scoring his 23rd goal of the year after receiving a cross-ice pass from Bergeron who was along the left boards into the high slot onto Pastrnak’s stick. The young winger unleashed a slap shot that eluded the stick-side of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones putting the Bruins back on top by a 3-1 score.
Boston took that lead into the dressing room after the game’s first 20 minutes and the reviews from those observers were very good ones but would it continue?
When the second period began, it was evident that Sharks coach, Peter DeBoer, did not like what he saw and replaced Jones with backup Aaron Dell.
San Jose responded just 1:08 into the second period. UMass-Amherst alum Justin Braun scored his 3rd of the year when his point shot deflected off a Bruin and found its way into the back of the Boston net. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau garnered the assists.
The contest remained a fast-paced game with both teams playing effective defense until the Bruins fourth line of Tim Schaller, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore, hemmed the Sharks in their own zone with strong forechecking. The forecheck produced a defensive zone turnover to Moore, who was behind the San Jose net. He passed the puck to Nash in the high slot. Nash’s shot was stopped by Dell but the puck squirted free and Schaller banged the puck between Dell’s pads restoring Boston’s two-goal lead, 4-2, at 13:04 of the second period.
As the period progressed, Boston maintained control of the contest, giving up very few scoring opportunities to the Sharks.
The Black and Gold would add to their lead with the team’s second power play goal of the night at 17:31 of the period. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic sent a blind pass that went directly onto Bergeron’s stick in the high slot. Bergeron moved the puck to Pastrnak, who was in the left faceoff circle. Pastrnak collected the puck and had an open net looking at him. He did not miss. Boston had a 5-2 lead and Pastrnak had 24 goals on the season. Marchand was credited with the secondary assist.
After two periods, Boston had the 5-2 lead and a 27-20 advantage in shots on goal.
The third period was more of the same. The Bruins used their speed and a strong puck possession game deep in the San Jose territory to control the play.
Timo Meier cut Boston’s lead to 5-3 with 2:37 remaining in the period when he scooped up a rebound of a blocked shot in front of Rask and put it behind the netminder for his 3rd goal of the year. It was assisted by Joel Ward and Hertl.
As the clock wound down, San Jose pulled Dell for an extra skater but Marchand would put the exclamation point at the end of his club’s victory with an empty-net goal assisted by Bergeron and Backes. It was the 24th lamplighter of the season for Marchand tying him with Pastrnak for the team lead in goals.
The Bruins had passed the test but as Bergeron reminded everyone, it was just one game.
“You have to look at yourself,” said Bergeron. “Everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and realize we have to do better. It starts with one game. So, hopefully, we build from that and realize how we have to play the game and the intensity that we need but, that being said, we can’t just rely on one game. It’s about moving forward and keep pushing and definitely using that game as an example of how we need to play.”
Krug added that while everyone felt good about the win, the team cannot rest on its laurels.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here,” Krug said. “It’s one game. It’s about sticking with the process, and obviously, we’ve tweaked some things, and guys responded well. At the same time, it’s one game, so we have to continue to do our jobs and do it well, and do it to the best of our capabilities, and we’ll end up winning a lot of hockey games.”
“I mean, time will tell with that. I think there’s a lot of guys in here that take a lot of pride in what they do and were disappointed with what happened. But now, there’s no looking back. We’ve got to move forward, and make sure that this isn’t just a one-time thing, and just do our jobs.”
- Joe Thornton’s goal gave him 1,375 career NHL points moving him past Mike Modano into 23rd place on the League’s all-time list.
- Justin Braun’s goal was the 100th point of his NHL career.
- Martin Jones has been pulled from a game twice this season.
- Patrice Bergeron has a six-game point streak in which he has registered 12 points on four goals and eight assists.
- Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed the game due to illness.
- Boston finished the game with 33 shots on goal. San Jose put 26 shots on Rask.
- After scoring two goals versus San Jose, David Pastrnak has 99 career NHL points.
Boston’s next game will be against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at TD Garden (1:00 pm ET; NESN, SN, NHL.TV)
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.