When Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy met with the media prior to Saturday afternoon’s game at the TD Garden, he broke the news that three injured Bruins were going to be back in the lineup against the New York Rangers. David Pastrnak, Hampus Lindholm, and Linus Ullmark all would return to the ice and their return has been needed for some time.
Not only did the trio return, but they made a big impact on how the game went. Pastrnak had a goal and an assist, Lindholm was solid as usual on the back end with partner Charlie McAvoy and Ullmark was stellar in the net and did not look like someone who had not played in an NHL game in nine days. All of that led to a 3-1 victory for Boston’s first win of the 2021-22 season against the Rangers.
“This time of year, you’re in the dog days, so to speak, and you’re looking forward to the playoffs. … So there was a little different energy in the room [with Pastrnak, Lindholm and Ullmark returning],” Cassidy said. “I didn’t get a medical report yet if there were any setbacks at all. It certainly didn’t look like it. … Nice to see them back in the lineup.”
Here are three takeaways from the Bruins’ 48th win of the season.
Pastrnak & Lindholm Make Immediate Impact
Through the first period, both Pastrnak and Lindholm were showing some rust after a long layoff. Both saw time on the first two Bruins’ power play opportunities, but at the end of the first period, both made a big impact on the first goal. Lindholm collected the puck in the defensive zone corner, led the breakout with a pass to Brad Marchand, who made a pass to McAvoy who led the break into the Rangers zone where he drew goalie Igor Shesterkin and made a pass to Pastrnak who one-timed the puck into an empty net with 34 seconds left in the period.
Early in the second period, Pastrnak blocked a Rangers cross-ice pass and the puck deflected to Erik Haula, who sent Taylor Hall on a breakaway and the former Hart Trophy winner beat Shesterkin for a 2-0 lead. Along with the goal and assist, Pastrnak finished with two shots on the net in 20:19 of time on ice. Lindholm played just over 24 minutes in his return to the lineup and tied McAvoy with a team-high 26 shifts playing in all situations.
Ullmark Strong in Return
Not only did the Bruins get a boost with Pastrnak and Lindholm returning, but also in net with Ullmark, who missed the last nine days after having a shot hit him in the helmet in a game on April 14 against the Ottawa Senators. He took the deflected shot off the mask in the first period, finished the period, but was lifted in favor of Jeremy Swayman between periods.
Swayman started the last three games, winning two of them against the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, but Ullmark was very impressive and strong after his nine days away from game action. He made 30 saves, including 10 in the first period and 12 in the second. He did give up a third-period power-play goal to Mika Zibanejad when Ullmark was called for a delay of game penalty for playing the puck over the glass, but he stopped the other eight Rangers shots in the period to secure his 24th win of the season.
Ullmark was tested early and often by the Rangers. In the first period, he stopped Barclay Goodrow on a break down the left side shorthanded, then made three big saves in the second period. He made a glove save sliding to his left and robbed Frank Vatarno then made a reactionary save when Artemi Panarin’s pass on a 2-on-1 deflected off of Lindholm. Late in the period, Ullmark stopped Dylan Strome in close to keep the Black and Gold ahead by two goals.
In the third period after he gave up Zibanejad’s goal, Ullmark stopped Strome again at point-blank range and then made a glove save on Zibanejad in the final three minutes when New York pulled Shesterkin for a 6-on-5 advantage.
Power Play Looked Better, but Remained Scoreless
Entering the game, the Bruins were in a long frustrating slump on the power play. They were scoreless in their last 29 chances, all without the services of Pastrnak. Just because the Bruins leading goal scorer returned does not mean that the man advantage is going to click right away and that was the case, but as the game progressed the chances looked better than they had in previous games.
The first attempt in the first period looked like the previous 29 and the best scoring chance was by the Rangers on Goodrow’s attempt off of a Marchand turnover at the New York blue line. The second chance late in the first period looked more like the Bruins’ power play before the slump. There was good puck movement, Hall set up Patrice Bergeron twice in the bumper position, only to be stopped by Shesterkin. Their chance in the second period was an odd one, 4-on-3 for the first minute plus, and the unit of Marchand, Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Lindholm had good puck movement but came up empty.
Four games remain in the regular season and if there’s one thing the Bruins need to fix, it’s the power play that they rely so much on. Getting Pastrnak back will help, but this must be fixed before the playoffs. The Bruins will have time to work on it Sunday night as they head to play the Montreal Canadiens in the second trip to the Bell Centre this season, looking for the season sweep of their Original Six rivals.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.