November 8, 2011

Bruins rediscovering 'killer instinct'

After struggling offensively in their first ten games, the Bruins have now scored 18 times in their last three tilts. (Getty)

BOSTON – Tyler Seguin called it “one of the biggest shifts in hockey.” Jack Edwards, with his usual flair for the dramatic, calls it “the vulnerable minute.”

Whatever the nomenclature, the Bruins have just about perfected the shift following a goal over the last two games.

Saturday’s fireworks against Toronto were impressive, but Tim Thomas made it clear that the Bruins only needed one goal to beat the Maple Leafs. Monday night, the Bruins scored two goals within a minute of each other twice, and it was the difference against an Islander team that briefly looked like it could steal a win on the road.

Just 29 seconds after Nathan Horton made it 2-1 Boston at the 13:38 mark of the first period, Patrice Bergeron hit Tyler Seguin with a feed across the slot, and Seguin added to his team-leading goal haul with a snap shot to beat Islander starter Evgeni Nabokov – the last shot the Russian saw, as he was then lifted for Al Montoya.

“Well that’s a big thing for us, is definitely that shift after a goal,” Seguin said. “It’s huge and I think (David Krejci’s) line did it tonight back-to-back. That’s one of the biggest shifts in hockey. So right now we’re doing a good job at capitalizing on it.”

Seguin’s goal was the game-winner, but the other rapid pair he referred to, collected by Krejci and linemates Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, were arguably more important overall.

It started with a nice play by Krejci, who fell back to pick up a cross-ice pass from defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and put it in front of Lucic up the left wing boards. Lucic made a strong move to get the puck, and then himself, around New York’s Steve Staios, then gave to an untouched Horton at the Islander blue line. Horton closed in on Al Montoya long enough to get the goaltender to commit, then slid the puck back to Lucic for a tap-in to make it 4-2 with 15:26 to go.

What came next was a nearly perfect sequence shift by the Krejci-Lucic-Horton line, plus defensemen Joe Corvo and Dennis Seidenberg, and it was the dagger the Bruins needed to bring their third straight victory home.

The Islanders won the faceoff after Lucic’s goal, and immediately drew back into their own end. They never escaped. Former Bruin Brian Rolston’s giveaway on the breakout put the puck on Lucic’s stick, and the winger sent it across to Horton on the left wing half boards. Horton sent it slowly around the Islander net, and Corvo made a good pinch to pick it up on the opposite side. He gave it to Krejci, but had to make two more stops at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone.

After the second blue-line possession save, Corvo sent a pass across to Seidenberg, who put it right back on Corvo’s stick on the right wing. Corvo fired a slap shot that Islander goaltender Al Montoya stopped, but the rebound fell to Horton, sitting unmolested by New York defensemen Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina.

One backhand swipe later, the Bruins were up 5-2 and in control for good.

“Well we wanted to show we have a killer instinct here and we showed it tonight again,” Krejci said. “Once we got a one-goal lead, we don’t want to sit back and wait for them. You keep going forward and keep playing our game so that’s what happened.”

It’s almost a 180 from where the Bruins were at about a week ago, left flummoxed by missed opportunities in three straight losses including a lifeless 4-2 defeat at home to San Jose to start the slide. Where the team then was talking about not capitalizing on chances and not doing the little things consistently, on Monday night all anyone could talk about was getting those things right.

“When we score a goal, we seem to come back the next shift and really, we’ve always emphasized how important that shift following the goal for or against is,” Julien said. “Our guys just have been good at responding when they go back, and they get off to a real good shift. In Toronto, same thing, we scored a couple of quick goals.

“Tonight, same thing. It’s just paying attention to little details and what every part of the game means to your hockey club, and our guys are just responding to that right now.”