Commentary: Marchand-Backes-Pastrnak line leads the Bruins to season opener win
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The Boston Bruins dug themselves into a hole when Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson scored and gave the Jackets a two-goal lead heading into the second period of the season opener.
However, the Bruins bounced back into the game, and the first line with center forward David Backes and his wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak led the Bruins to a 6-3 win on the road at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night. The first line combined for a total of six goals, six assists, 12 points, (goals and assists combined) and tallied 18 of the Bruins 37 shots on goal.
Just three minutes into the game, Blue Jackets forward Alexander Wennberg scored the first goal of the game, with assists by defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, which got the sell out home crowd of 18,500+ fans in attendance cheering.
Bruins forward Austin Czarnik, who made his NHL debut tonight, served a two-minute penalty for hooking with 2:52 remaining in the first period. The Bruins were penalized for the costly mistake as the Jackets capitalized on the one-man advantage with Atkinson’s goal and assists by forwards Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg at 17:25 to put the Blue Jackets up with a two-goal lead at the end of the first period. Even with a one-man advantage by Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien to add an extra skater and pull starting goalie Tuukka Rask, the Bruins could not capitalize and cut the lead in half before breaking off for intermission.
Bruins forward Matt Beleskey said to New England Sports Network (NESN) rink-side reporter Sarah Davis during the first period intermission that the score did not reflect the way that the team played.
The Bruins opened up the second period with a powerplay opportunity after Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner was penalized two minutes for tripping. Just three minutes into the second period, Pastrnak cut the two-goal deficit in half by tipping in the puck after connecting on a pass from Marchand, who assisted on the goal.
However, Jones stole the Bruins momentum with his goal, assisted by forwards Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno at 6:44 in the period.
More than halfway into the second period, Marchand kept the Bruins in the game by setting up an opportunity for Backes to score his first goal as a member of the organization on the team’s powerplay opportunity after Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky tripped Marchand. And the duo did it again with three minutes remaining in the period to tie the game at 3-3. A loud crowd was silence by the Bruins three unanswered goals and comeback.
Danton Heinen, another rookie making his first NHL debut, gave the Bruins a crucial penalty to kill after hooking Dubinsky. They killed of the penalty, and the Blue Jackets had zero shots in net during their powerplay.
Forward rookie Noel Acciari, a part of the Bruins and league’s youth movement, added another penalty for the team for hooking Jones to kill, which was the team’s third penalty of the night. The forward that had been setting up passes and scoring opportunities for his teammates scored his first goal of the season more than halfway on a breakaway in the third period for the Bruins to lead the game 4-3 for the first time of the night. Marchand’s breakaway goal was assisted by Backes and Pastrnak. Marchand tabbed his second goal of the game to secure the lead with 15:25 left of the game, which also gave rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo his first assist in the league. The first line finished with a plus-16.
On the Bruins four goals of the game, Marchand said: “We were really hungry tonight, we wanted to have a big night,” to Davis prior to the start of the third period.
“It was one of those games where things were going our way,” said Backes to NHL.com. “There were a couple of fortunate bounces, but we created our own luck by pressuring them.” He added that the team’s game got better and better throughout the night.
Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella said to NHL.com that his team was tentative and sloppy with the puck.
“We started to maybe get a little too cute, trying to jam the play through the neutral zone and that’s all they need to feed their transition,” said Jones to NHL.com.
With 58 seconds remaining in the game, Pastrnak scored his second goal of the night with an empty-netter assisted by Bruins forwards David Krejci and Ryan Spooner after Blue Jackets starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled for an extra attacker on the ice in hopes of tying and sending the game into overtime.
“A couple of beautiful plays by my linemates to score some goals in the third,” said Backes to The Globe. “Fun to celebrate that many times in one game. We’ll take it, move on, put them in the bank.’’
Despite making some mistakes, bouncing back after a long off-season, shaking off the jitters, and forming chemistry with seven new linemates, the Bruins gained confidence and corrected mistakes throughout the night to earn a two-point win.
On his new linemate, Marchand said to The Globe that he thinks Backes, who has been with the St. Louis Blues his entire NHL career before signing a five-year $30 million contract with the Bruins back in July, is awesome and a phenomenal player. The Bruins also locked Marchand to an eight-year, $49 million contract a few weeks ago while he was playing for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey and during the Bruins main training camp before the start of the pre-season.
“I played against him a couple of times, but didn’t really realize how good he is with the puck and how smart he is,” said Marchand to The Globe. “I knew he was hard to play against. I never enjoyed it.”
Julien said to The Globe that he did not think that the team played “that bad.” Despite the two costly mistakes, Julien thought that they played well even in the first period when they trailed a pair of goals.
“I think we showed some resiliency,” said Julien to the Globe. “I think we showed some character and it was nice to see guys step up here and find a way to win a hockey game.”
In a post-game interview with Davis, Marchand thinks that the young guys played well despite the rookie mistakes. He also added that they showed character and fought back to get the win.
The Bruins will travel to Canada to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, the second of their third game road trip before their home season opener on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils, at Air Canada Centre on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.