Complacency crept up on the Boston Bruins for a stretch of Monday’s tilt with the Florida Panthers. Even so, they continued their winning ways.
Connor Clifton, Brandon Carlo, Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak paced the Bruins to a 4-0 cushion within a 10:37 timeframe between the first and second periods. But they found themselves in a dogfight against their Atlantic Division foes some six-plus minutes after Pastrnak notched his 21st of the season on a power play marker.
A pair of net-front goals from Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe and an Eric Staal one-timer cut Boston’s lead to 4-3 within a 5:20 span. The Bruins appeared prime for a letdown with Pastrnak heading to the box for a check to the head shortly after Verhaeghe notched his 17th tally of the season.
Jim Montgomery’s squad withstood that frantic stretch. The Bruins killed off the Pastrnak minor, then reclaimed their two-goal cushion after David Krejci buried a rebound past Spencer Knight following a Hampus Lindholm tip-in attempt.
Linus Ullmark continued his Vezina campaign following another night of timely stops in the third period. Patrice Bergeron added a pair of insurance goals in the final frame to cap off a four-point night and a 7-3 victory for Boston.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 17-0-2 at TD Garden and 25-4-2 overall.
The Bruins continue to manage through their lulls.
Given their hot start, few people would likely blame the Bruins for encountering an off-night. And over the last week, Montgomery’s bunch had to overcome their share of hiccups.
Unlike their last two games, the Bruins established a more fluid pace following the first 10 minutes of mostly neutral zone play between the two sides. With a 4-0 lead intact, the Bruins appeared to return to form from their October and November pace.
But the Panthers quickly cut the deficit to one following their trio of second-period lamplighters. Conventional wisdom would’ve suggested that Montgomery call a timeout amid that five-minute run.
The Bruins remained calm and confident, however. Montgomery didn’t use his timeout, putting faith into his leadership core to regain control.
“I think if we had a younger team, I probably would’ve called a timeout. But with the leadership group that we have, they’re saying the right things on the bench,” Montgomery said. “It’s not like I can call timeout and say anything better. So, I’m lucky to have the leaders that we have.”
Indeed, Bergeron and company regained their footing. Eventually, the Bruins regained that four-goal advantage behind Krejci’s second-period tally and Bergeron’s pair in the third.
And surely, they’ll face similar situations ahead.
“It’s good to have,” Bergeron said on the adversity. “But that being said, I think there are a lot of things that we can improve on and get better at. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Every Bruin is in the goal department following Carlo’s tally.
From the top playmakers to the third and fourth forward trios and bottom-pairing defensemen, the Bruins received significant contributions throughout their roster. Entering Monday, all but one of their regulars from the roster had scored at least one goal.
Carlo was the lone holdover of that bunch. But Montgomery felt it was only a matter of time until Carlo lit the lamp as his offensive instincts started to complement his stay-at-home traits.
“I think he’s been jumping into the right zones offensively, coming out of D zones through the neutral zone and offensively especially,” Montgomery said of Carlo. “He’s had a lot of opportunities, and it was great to see him get rewarded on a great pass by Brad Marchand.”
The Colorado Springs product didn’t lose much sleep over watching his teammates contribute to the goal column regularly or sub-regularly. But like Montgomery, Carlo felt he’d find his name on the scoresheet.
That moment for Carlo came on Monday, as he fired a nifty wrist shot past Knight from a Marchand feed to finish an odd-man rush and give the Bruins a 2-0 edge.
“It’s something that I haven’t focused on too much on not having a goal yet throughout this year,” Carlo said. “I feel like I’ve gotten my opportunities each game. I knew it would come soon, and I’m glad that it did tonight.”
Even in Montgomery’s up-tempo system, the Bruins rely more on Carlo’s defensive hand during 5v5 and penalty kill situations. With a fresh perspective, he’s provided a steady presence defensively and continues to find an offensive rhythm under Boston’s first-year coach.
‘Cliffy Hockey’ is all grown up.
Bruce Cassidy first coined the phrase “Cliffy Hockey” in Clifton’s rookie year to describe his aggressive, energetic and sometimes reckless play.
It turns out Clifton doesn’t like the moniker from his former bench boss.
Of course, the media ran with the ‘Cliffy Hockey’ phrase. And Montgomery admitted that he doesn’t like the term either.
But there’s no denying that Clifton’s matured since the beginning of his NHL career. Like Carlo, he’s showcased some assertiveness in the offensive end to coincide with his energetic skillset. This year he’s showcased a knack for impacting the game in various ways.
On Monday, the Montgomery version of “Cliffy Hockey” set the tone with his top-shelf marker to give the Bruins the 1-0 lead.
Amid his dislike for the term, the first-year Boston coach heaped more praise in Clifford’s direction during one of his better performances in this recent stretch.
“I do not like the term ‘Cliffy Hockey’ — not from [the media] using it, but from within our room,” Montgomery said. “It’s funny. I spoke to him about it. The way it’s brought up in the room, and the way how it was born…it was born from him maybe being too reckless and ‘Cliffy Hockey’ going on his own page.
“The ‘Cliffy Hockey’ that I see knows very much how the team is playing and is always supporting the structure of the play. And he has the ability because of his instincts to make high-risk-reward plays. Tonight was the best game in a while, and I’m happy for him.”
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Extended highlights of the Florida Panthers at the Boston Bruins