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Connolly helps in Bruins debut, win vs. Wings

April 3, 2015, 2:25 AM ET [13 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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As previously established on numerous occasions and countless points and victories pulled out of you-know-where, the Boston Bruins are well beyond the ‘style points’ phase of their season.

But for the first 40 minutes of play at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night, the Black and Gold looked like they were being put through a free skating clinic courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings. At the second intermission, the Wings held a heavy and more than noticeable 26-to-15 advantage in shots, and 1-0 lead behind Luke Glendening’s 12th goal of the season 9:19 into the second period.

Things got worse for the B’s when the Wings increased their edge to two just 2:52 into the third period on a power-play goal from Stephen Weiss, good for Weiss’ ninth tally of the year.

It was at this point that you could almost hear the Bruins firing up their bus in the bowels of the Joe.

Boston countered, however, late in a power play opportunity behind Carl Soderberg’s first power-play goal in 40 games (he last scored a power-play goal on Dec. 31 against Toronto).

The goal, assisted by Reilly Smith and Brett Connolly, gave Boston a jolt of life.

Especially Smith.

2:14 later, with the Bruins in search of the tying goal, Smith flew into the Detroit zone with a head of steam, and although he failed to put the finishing touches on what would have been an absolutely sensational goal against the Wings’ Petr Mrazek, his miss gave the B’s another, even better, chance at the game-tying goal. One that a net-front livin’ Loui Eriksson did not miss.

As Eriksson connected on his 21st goal of the season, the Bruins and Red Wings were back where they started, with 12:41 left in a third period that was turned upside down in less than three minutes.

The Bruins somehow survived a Brad Marchand penalty against just 1:20 after Eriksson’s strike, and were hanging around as the game shifted from open to tight, back and forth.

But when Zach Trotman followed the simple idea of getting the puck on net, the last pick from the 2010 NHL Draft, 210th overall, beat Mrazek on a funky shot for the first goal of his NHL career.

Trotman’s go-ahead goal, with just 2:08 remaining in the third, would hold as the game-winner, with help from a last-minute too-many-men call against Mike Babcock’s squad.

With the victory, the Bruins moved into a tie with the Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division with 93 points each, and maintained their three-point edge on the Ottawa Senators (overtime winners in a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning) for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Random thoughts and notes

- It was an undeniably solid, albeit rather jumbled, Bruins debut for Brett Connolly.

The 22-year-old acquired from the Tampa Bay at the Trade Deadline, who has missed the last 14 games with a broken finger, chimed in with two assists and one shot on goal in 12:44 of time on ice.

Connolly’s night started on the B’s fourth line with Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell, but obviously didn’t stay there with the club in pursuit of goals in the third period. Connolly was bumped up to the Spooner line opposite Milan Lucic (this moved David Pastrnak downed to the fourth line), and gave No. 14 a chance he admitted he never really seemed to have with the Bolts.

It’s impossible to get a full grasp on what Connolly can bring to the Black and Gold just yet, but you got a slight idea. He has a powerful shot that requires space to get off (think a lankier Nathan Horton), and though he’s quite wiry, Connolly showed signs of being able to use his body along the walls.

Ideally, the Bruins will put Connolly in a situation to succeed -- like, with Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci as his center -- and hope to find some chemistry lightning in a bottle into the playoffs.

- Hey, so here’s a line that Claude Julien should avoid uniting ever again: Loui Eriksson - David Krejci - Carl Soderberg. As a trio, these guys were absolutely shelled by the Red Wings. Pretty easy decision for Julien to split them up and put Krejci back at right wing with Bergeron and Marchand.

- In case you missed it, Patrice Bergeron was named the Bruins’ nominee for the 2015 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as voted by the Boston Chapter of the Pro Hockey Writers Association.

The award is awarded to the player that best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey, and Bergeron showed a bit of that flair when he returned to tonight’s game with a full-visor and 30 stitches to his mouth after taking a Justin Abdelkader stick to the face in the second. The guy’s a warrior, that’s just common knowledge by now, and he’ll probably be the subject of New England folklore centuries from now. Paul Bunyan ain’t got nothin’ on Patrice Bergeron.

(For what it’s worth, I gave my first-place vote to B’s winger Loui Eriksson. I felt that the veteran winger rebounded from two major head injuries last year with an incredible season, and that he dealt with incessant trade rumors and third-line minutes like a true professional and then some. My second-place nomination went to Dennis Seidenberg for his recovery from last year’s ACL tear, and my third place vote went to Simon Gagne for his attempt to return to hockey after taking last year off.)

- Am I crazy to think that these Wings are in deeper trouble than the Bruins? Despite skating as one of the league’s top possession units in 2014-15, the Wings have just three wins in their last 10 games, are playing without Pavel Datsyuk, and have a remaining five-game schedule featuring three contests with teams currently jostling for playoff position. Oh, and their goaltending has been a mess.

This could finally be the year where that famous 23-year playoff streak comes to an end. Weird.

Up next

It’s back to the TD Garden for a Saturday night match with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Surprisingly, the Bruins have struggled against the Maple Leafs this year, with just one win in three prior head-to-heads, and have been outscored by Toronto by an 11-to-8 mark. This will be the B’s final regular-season game at the Garden this year. The Garden’s been kind to the Bruins, too, with 23 wins in 40 home games.

Ty Anderson has been covering the Boston Bruins for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, is a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com
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