December 23, 2009

Spirited win for B's

by Douglas Flynn

Patrice Bergeron chases down the puck. (photo: Getty)

BOSTON – Marc Savard has the Santa thing down pat. The Bruins would like to see a little more Scrooge on occasion.

Savard is one of the league’s elite playmakers, and he definitely likes to give more than to receive. Put his pinpoint passes are far less effective when the opposition knows it doesn’t have to worry about defending against his shot.

Savard’s got a decent one of those, too. And so Bruins coach Claude Julien has been harping on him to be just a little more selfish and take the occasional shot himself to keep opposing goalies and defensemen honest.

Savard hadn’t done much of that lately, struggling through a five-game pointless streak – the longest drought in his time with the Bruins. In those five games, he managed exactly one shot on goal in that entire stretch. He finally got back on the scoresheet Monday with an assist in Ottawa, in a game that he also had two shots.

And Wednesday against Atlanta, Savard really broke through, putting four shots on goal and collecting a goal and two assists to earn No. 1 star honors as the Bruins held off the Thrashers for a 6-4 win.

“Claude talked to me and said to get results I had to get pucks to the net,” said Savard, who opened the scoring with a power-play tally at 9:44 of the first, though even then he had to go against the urge to pass the puck to someone else.

“I was almost forced into shooting that one on the power play. I still wanted to pass it the whole time, but finally I just turned and shoot it,” said Savard, who flipped a shot up under the crossbar when Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec went down anticipating a pass, giving Savard the top half of the net to shoot at.

“I think (he expected me to pass),” added Savard. “He ended up falling on his stomach there, so I caught him swimming a bit and I was able to put it up top.”

That opened the floodgates, with Boston scoring on three consecutive shots in a 1:08 span to drive Pavelec from the game. Daniel Paille converted a great feed from Mark Recchi at the left post and Vladimir Sobotka scored from Shawn Thornton to make it 3-0.

But Atlanta can score quickly too, and the Thrashers scored on back-to-back shots by Bryan Little and Maxim Afinogenov to pull within one before the first period was over as the Bruns may have gotten caught up in holiday spirit a little too soon.

“It was one of those Christmas games that are tough because everyone is so excited about the holiday,” said Savard. “It seems like whoever can stay in it the longest gets the win. So even though it obviously wasn’t pretty at the end we stuck with it and got the two points to pull ahead of these guys a little further and we’re happy with that.”

The Bruins used their power play, which had been 0 for 13 in the previous five games, to extend the lead again with Zdeno Chara scoring with a two-man advantage in the second and Michael Ryder converting another 5-on-3 chance in the third.

But again Atlanta roared back, with Evander Kane and Ilya Kovalchuk each scoring 1:10 apart to make it 5-4 with 4:52 to play.

“I mean, they’re great offensively,” said Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who allowed four goals on 29 shots. “They’re very tough to play against offensively and they’ve got a lot of speed and they used it at times against us and took advantage of some of the opportunities they had. Fortunately we were able to keep them from taking any more advantages and that’s why we came up with a win.”

Patrice Bergeron finally iced it with an empty-netter with 3.5 seconds left, allowing the sellout crowd at the Garden to breathe again, and allowing the Bruins to enjoy the upcoming Christmas break.

“Obviously we didn’t play as well defensively tonight as we normally do, but at the same time we found a way to win a hockey game and that’s the bottom line right now,” said Recchi. “There are games through the course of the year where you don’t win when you should win and tonight was just a game where I think we deserved to win. But at the same time we tried to give it to them. We tried to hand it back to them, but we did a good job at the end.”

After a season-high four-game losing streak, the Bruins head into the holidays riding high after two straight wins against two of the clubs they’re battling for position in the Eastern Conference.

“We showed a lot of character and we stuck with it and pulled it out,” said Recchi. “The bottom line is we needed two wins before Christmas and we got them. A lot of positives happened in the last two games and we will enjoy our Christmas break now.”

Douglas Flynn can be reached at dflynn@hockeyjournal.com.