|Bruins winger Michael Ryder buried the game-winning goal on a penalty shot against the Thrashers on Saturday. (Getty)|
BOSTON -- Calling the second half of the year a tough stretch for Michael Ryder would be a wild understatement.
Entering Saturday's game against the Thrashers, the Newfoundland native had just one goal in his last 20 games, as he went the entire month of March without finding the back of the net.
Ryder put an end to his lengthy funk in the matinee, tallying on a penalty shot in the third period to give the Bruins a 3-2 victory over Atlanta. For those that watched Ryder miss the net in Boston's shootout loss to Toronto on Thursday night, his strategy against Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec might have looked quite familiar.
"Last game I missed the net, tonight I hit it," said Ryder, who admittedly used the same move for his penalty shot as he did in the shootout. "It was a big goal for us, we wanted to make sure we got the win today, and I think we’ve played better games but as long as we get the two points that doesn’t mean anything."
Ryder is all-too familiar with trying to make a late, personal rally before the end of the regular season. While coach Claude Julien has made him a healthy scratch three times over the last month-plus of hockey, No. 73 went through similar circumstances during his last year in Montreal in 2007-08.
Ryder seemingly fell out of favor with Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, resulting in a number of nights as the odd-man out and limited ice time when he was chosen to suit up.
"You want to be in the lineup, nobody wants to be out," said Ryder. "It’s frustrating and I’ve been there before, so I kind of know what it takes to get back in. It’s just working hard and finding your game, and not letting the little things get to you. Just make sure when you get back in that you take advantage of the chances that you get."
He's now hoping that he can use his goal against the Thrashers as a springboard and rediscover his renown sniping abilities.
"Yeah, I’ve struggled to find goals lately," Ryder said. "Last game goalpost, then earlier tonight crossbar. Just got to try and stay with it. Like I said before, if I keep just working hard and shooting the puck, it’ll go in for me."
The volume at TD Garden reached its peak when Ryder's penalty shot found twine, but the struggling winger hardly noticed. He was too amped up over finally breaking through and burying his first goal since way back on Feb. 27 in Edmonton.
"I was just excited to get the goal," he said. "I was tired on the penalty shot, so I didn’t know what I was going to do. Like I said, that was a big win for us. I knew if we got the lead and I scored there, it would get the team going and hopefully we could pull out the win."
The win was an extra special one, as Ryder helped the Bruins clinch first place in the Northeast Division.
"It’s always a goal when you come into the season to win your division and we did that," Ryder said. "We still have a few games left right now and maybe we can move up even further. That’s what we have to look for, and make sure we get our game ready to go for playoff time."