The Bruins made sure to salvage something from a very difficult road trip in California as they bounced back from two straight one-sided losses to win, 1-0, Saturday at San Jose’s SAP Center. Tuukka Rask (26 saves) outplayed his fellow countrymen Antti Niemi (21 saves) for his fifth shutout of the season and 21st of his career. Carl Soderberg had the game-winning goal for Boston (29-14-2) at 12:25 of the third period from Loui Eriksson and Ryan Spooner.Coming into Saturday, San Jose (28-12-6) had been 16-1-3 at home. After losing 5-2 in Anaheim on Tuesday and 4-2 at Los Angeles on Thursday, the B’s needed something positive to pack with them on their long flight back to Boston. Two points were the perfect parting gift and it came in Eriksson (concussion) and Shawn Thornton’s (suspension) returns after they both missed the past 15 games, albeit for quite different reasons. Eriksson was eased back on the third line with Soderberg and Spooner while Thornton is on his familiar fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille.
Boston actually swept San Jose this season since the Bruins won, 2-1, on Oct. 24 at TD Garden as well on David Krejci’s last-second goal. With Tampa Bay and Montreal winning earlier on Saturday, the B’s needed to win to keep those teams two and three points behind them respectively in the Atlantic Division. The other interesting note from the game was that rookie Kevan Miller picked up his first NHL fighting major after he dropped the gloves with Mike Brown (not the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach) in the second period. He became the 10th Bruin
this season to record a fighting major.
The Bruins return to TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m., NESN) to host the free-falling Maple Leafs (21-20-5), who have lost their last four games in a row. Then it is back on the road as Boston goes to Dallas on Thursday for a rematch with Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, then Chicago on Sunday for their first meeting since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
What they'll be saying: Considering how they’ve struggled the past few weeks, especially on the road, this might have been Boston’s most impressive win of the season so far. It was a truly elite performance for Rask as well, which might have won him the starter’s job for Finland in the 2014 Winter Olympics in the process. He now leads the NHL in shutouts and this was probably his best as he blanked a team that came in with one of the top offenses in the league (148 goals).
Earlier in the day, Boston assigned forward Justin Florek to Providence to make room for Thornton. With Eriksson also back, Mark Fraser was a healthy scratch along with Jordan Caron and Johnny Boychuk (who returned to Boston earlier this weekend for personal reasons). Julien put Eriksson on the third line instead of the second (where he began the season) to ease him back into game action plus Reilly Smith has been great since he was out and more than held his own with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Eriksson played 13:18 and recorded two takeaways along with his assist and plus/minus of plus-1. Thornton skated a team-low 8:42 with one shot on goal and one blocked shot.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate