Kari Lehtonen didn’t stand a chance.
The Boston Bruins scored their first goal on a lightning-quick play down low, then deflected three pucks past the Dallas Stars netminder Sunday to put a 6-3 exclamation mark on their four-game road trip.
“We were getting the bounces,” said B’s center Patrice Bergeron, who had two goals and an assist in the game. “Sometimes it doesn’t go your way but this afternoon it was one of those days where we were getting some looks and generating some chances off of us and moving our feet.”
Bruins interim head coach Bruce Cassidy was understandably pleased with his team’s effort.
“We are getting our looks,” said Cassidy. “When we manage the puck well and play with structure we tend to get our looks and it’s a matter of winning our share of pucks. We’ve been doing a good job at that.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff came away impressed with the Bruins’ dynamic duo of Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who combined for three goals and six points on the day.
“Marchand’s one hell of a player now,” said Ruff. “His puck possession and his small-ice play are excellent. They complement each other. Bergeron is one of the best two-way players. I’ve been around him in a couple of Olympics and he’s a heck of a player. Marchand has gone from really being known as an antagonizer to being a complete player with a great shot. He can make a lot of good plays in that little bit of ice.”
The Stars’ bench boss said his own team “got off to a slow start and then really came on in the second period.” He added that, in the end, “big mistakes hurt us. We missed some sticks, our defense didn’t tie up a couple of guys. I thought that was probably the biggest difference in the game.”
The 11:30 a.m. start time was highly unusual for the Stars. Teams unaccustomed to playing early afternoon games are often sluggish. Captain Jamie Benn wanted his club engaged from the get-go, so on the opening faceoff, he dropped the gloves with longtime nemesis David Backes.
Though the fight pumped up the crowd at the American Airlines Center, the Stars struggled to find the right gear, failing to connect on passes and icing the puck several times in the first few minutes.
Almost six minutes in, B’s winger David Pastrnak stickhandled his way behind the Stars’ net before passing the puck to Bergeron. The Bruins’ alternate captain held onto the puck just long enough to freeze Lehtonen and his defensemen, then dished it to the wide-open Marchand, who fired it home for the first goal of the game.
The visitors added another goal less than a minute later, turning an offensive-zone faceoff win into a David Krejci deflection off a Torey Krug point shot.
The Stars struggled mightily at the dot in the first period, going 6-for-19 on draws. They also had problems entering the offensive zone with control of the puck, but improved gradually as the period wore on.
The Bruins led 2-0 on the scoreboard and 9-5 in shots on goal after 20 minutes.
Early in the second period, Devin Shore won an offensive-zone draw to linemate Jiri Hudler, who passed it back to John Klingberg. The Swedish defender sent a puck through traffic which eluded Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask to put the Stars on the board.
The buzzing crowd rose to their feet 30 seconds later, when the Stars’ Curtis McKenzie and Bruins’ Kevan Miller dropped the gloves after the latter hit the former hard along the boards.
The Stars’ line of Lauri Korpikoski, Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza created chances on several good shifts in the offensive zone, but couldn’t quite finish. Eleven minutes into the period, Antoine Roussel’s hustle earned the Stars their first power play of the day and Jiri Hudler’s one-timer from the top of the left circle tied the game.
“I thought he did a nice job getting a nice shot on the power play and made a nice play on the other goal,” Ruff said of Hudler. “Overall he played well. We know once he gets inside the blue line he can make plays. Sometimes the speed of the game catches up to him a little bit.”
The Bruins regained the lead three minutes later, with Frank Vatrano doing the deflection honors this time.
Forty seconds after Vatrano’s goal, the B’s won yet another offensive-zone draw, leading directly to yet another deflection goal. Bergeron scored his first of the game while wearing Stars defenseman Jordie Benn.
Ahead 4-2, the Bruins continued to attack. Stars rookie defenseman Esa Lindell broke up a 2-on-1 immediately after Bergeron’s goal to keep the game within reach.
The Stars counterattacked, but couldn’t make it count. In a 40-second span late in the period, they put one shot off the post and Rask robbed Patrick Sharp on a one-timer. After 40 minutes, the Stars led 23-19 in shots, but trailed 4-2.
The Stars came out flying in the final period, but couldn’t put the puck past Rask. A little over four minutes in, Pastrnak was hooked by McKenzie, sending the Bruins to their first power play of the day, but the Stars’ aggressive penalty kill kept the B’s from adding to their lead.
Back at even-strength, however, Marchand carried the puck into the Stars’ zone. He shook off defenceman Lindell, spun and passed to Bergeron, who found the back of the net again.
Tyler Seguin tucked in the rebound of a Patrick Sharp shot at the 13-minute mark to pull the Stars within two, but Stephen Johns was whistled for delay of game 10 seconds later. The momentum-killing penalty was made worse when Ryan Spooner capitalized on a net-front scramble for a power play goal to put the game away.
BOS – Brad Marchand (27) assisted by Patrice Bergeron (22) and David Pastrnak (24)
BOS – David Krejci (16) assisted by Torey Krug (34) and David Backes (17)
DAL – John Klingberg (10) assisted by Jiri Hudler (7) and Devin Shore (17)
DAL – Jiri Hudler (3) (PPG) assisted by Jamie Benn (36) and Tyler Seguin (39)
BOS – Frank Vatrano (10) assisted by Kevan Miller (7) and Ryan Spooner (23)
BOS – Patrice Bergeron (15) assisted by Brad Marchand (36) and Zdeno Chara (12)
BOS – Patrice Bergeron (16) assisted by Brad Marchand (37) and Torey Krug (35)
DAL – Tyler Seguin (22) assisted by Patrick Sharp (8) and John Klingberg (25)
BOS – Ryan Spooner (10) (PPG) assisted by Torey Krug (36) and David Pastrnak (25)
THW Three Stars
First: Patrice Bergeron (2 goals, 1 assist)
Second: Brad Marchand (1 goal, 2 assists)
Third: Torey Krug (3 assists)
Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 28
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, ROOT
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Arizona Coyotes at Boston Bruins
TD Garden – 7:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 28
Broadcast channels: NESN, FS-A PLUS
2016-17 Season Series: Nov. 12 – Bruins 2, Coyotes 1
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.