Bruins survive Kings, rugged two-game stretch
The Bruins probably won’t have a tougher two day stretch this season, but they showed what they’re made of by earning three out of a possible four points Sunday and Monday. Boston (31-15-3) fell, 3-2, in Chicago in a shootout but returned to TD Garden Monday afternoon to defeat the Kings (29-15-6), 3-2. The B’s got some payback for LA’s 4-2 win at home on Jan. 9 and they also vaulted back in front of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand.
“Those are two very good teams,” noted Bruins forward Brad Marchand. “Back-to-back with travel, we played great games. Hopefully we can continue to play the same way.”
Personally, Marchand is on a tear with two more goals Monday, giving him a team-best 16 goals on the season with six goals and an assist in his last four games. He also added another shorthanded tally for his league-leading fourth of the season.
Chad Johnson (21 saves) made his second start in the last three games and once again picked up a win. After sitting out for nearly a month between outings, he is clearly getting more comfortable with the increased workload. Boston built up a 2-0 lead thanks to Marchand’s shorthanded goal and a power-play goal by Krug late in the first period. Willie Mitchell cut it to 2-1 in the second and Jeff Carter tied it with a power-play goal in the third, but Marchand answered 18 seconds after Carter for the game-winner.
“I’m impressed with our team and the way we handled the last three games (2-0-1) starting in Dallas,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “Yesterday was a big game so I thought it was important to have a fresh goaltender in there. We had confidence to put Chad back in.”
Boston gets a few days to rest now with their next game on Saturday (1 p.m., NESN) in Philadelphia. They have seven games left until the Olympic break in early February.
What they’ll be saying: The importance of getting more rest for Tuukka Rask while also building up Johnson’s confidence cannot be overstated. A few weeks ago, Johnson seemed like a weak link but now the Bruins have proven that they can beat good teams with him between the pipes. One would have thought that Rask would get the start Monday but it turned out that using Johnson was the right play.
Kevan Miller turned in his best game as a Bruin, he played 19:05, had a game-high five hits, three shots and one blocked shot. Even with a 3-2 lead, Julien had enough faith to put him out there when the Kings where pushing for the tying goal. From day one, he has not looked out of place and now it feels like he’s been with Boston all season after only 16 games.
The Kings lost but one area where they really made their presence felt was on the faceoff dot. Boston is normally one of the top faceoff teams in the NHL but the Kings won 36-of-57 (63 percent) led by Carter (6-2), Stoll (13-6) and Richards (10-5). Patrice Bergeron (2 assists) was the only Bruin that was over .500 (9-7).
The Bruins are 6-1-1 in afternoon games this season and 6-2-0 when they wear their third jerseys like today. Boston is 6-1-1 in game ones of back-to-backs and 6-2-0 in game twos.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate