The Bruins may be playing in front of an empty house on Causeway Street, but they’re finding a way to make their own noise so far this season.
The B’s got a pair of fourth line goals and two more from Patrice Bergeron for a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, sweeping the two-game set and giving the B’s their fourth Garden win in as many tries.
The B’s may have no fan energy to feed off, but that clearly hasn’t hampered them.
“We pride ourselves on sticking together and creating energy among ourselves as teammates,” said Anders Bjork, who was one the chief adrenaline suppliers, especially in the early going. “We’ve had injuries and new guys in the lineup, young guys in bigger roles. We’re a close team and we’re sticking together and it’s paying off right now.”
The B’s gave one of their more smothering defensive performances, killing all three penalties they took on the night and limiting the Penguins to just 17 shots on the night. Jaroslav Halak made 19 saves to nail down the victory.
But it wasn’t all smiles for the B’s. Matt Grzelcyk looked good through two periods in his first game back after missing two with a lower body injury. But he could not come out for the third period, falling victim to a different LBI. It’s the third injury in seven games for the undersized defenseman, who has been taking on more minutes and responsibility this year with the departure of Torey Krug.
“Tough start for Grizz. I don’t think he’ll be available for Saturday (vs. Washington). We’re going to put him at day-to-day for now but it looks like it will be a few days anyway,” said coach Bruce Cassidy
With David Pastrnak not yet ready to return from hip surgery (there’s hope he’ll be ready for Saturday), Ondrej Kase out of action for the foreseeable future after taking a hit to the head in the second game of the season and now Jake DeBrusk (lower body) joining the wounded, the B’s were already playing with a cobbled together lineup to start the game. Cassidy had to shuffle his top three lines, moving Craig Smith up to the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand line, Charlie Coyle to David Krejci’s right wing and creating a line of Par Lindholm centering rookies Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka. He eventually flipped Smith and Coyle in the second period and it immediately produced Bergeron’s first goal.
But it was the one line that was untouched from the previous game on Tuesday that made its mark in the first period. The fourth line, scoreless through the first six games of the season, finally got on the board at 6:10 of the first.
Brandon Carlo took a long distance shot that Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry directed to left boards. Grzelcyk pinched down to collect it and fire toward the net. Defenseman Kevin Czuczman knocked it back into the slot right to Chris Wagner, who buried it past Jarry for his first of the year.
The Penguins evened it at 15:03, but the B’s regained the advantage before the period was out, and again it was the fourth line that scored. Bjork, struggling for much of the young season, had helped to draw a Pittsburgh penalty early in the period and figured greatly in the B’s second goal. He rushed the puck down the left wing but was forced wide and behind the net. He eventually ended up back near the blue line and bounced shot that hit Sean Kuraly’s left leg and deflected past Jarry with 1:07 left in the period.
“I gave them the start tonight. I think in our building they usually give us energy. It’s either them or Bergie and they got off on the right foot. I thought Anders was real good tonight,” said Cassidy, who also gave the line the assignment of facing the Evgeni Malkin line for much of the night.
“(Assistant coach) Jay Pandolfo went through some stuff with them this morning. That always helps to see themselves in a small group, talk about they liked and having a coach there to remind what to do systematically. They’ve done a good job with that, Jay and Joe (Sacco). Whatever was said, I thought worked well for them….I was happy for them. They’re well liked in the room and when those guys score, it always lifts the bench.”
Bergeron scored an even strength goal midway through the second and, after burying a power-play tally early in the third (his fifth goal of the season), the outcome was never in doubt.
After the game, their thoughts naturally gravitated to their next matchup – the Washington Capitals and their former captain Zdeno Chara.
“We’ll see his best,” said Cassidy. “He bled Black and Gold here for years and I think he’ll want to show his teammates and everyone in the organization that he can still bring it. I expect nothing less.”