Hot Bruins defeat Red Wings
BOSTON — It wasn’t all that long ago the Boston Bruins, floundering in mediocrity, appeared to be on the road to nowhere.
That was then, this is now.
The Bruins have hit the NHL’s holiday break with four straight wins in a span of six days despite injuries and illness. They are 8-2-1 in December and 13-3-1 in their last 17 games.
“It’s been a fun ride and we gotta keep that going,” Patrice Bergeron said after his two goals helped the Bruins trim the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Saturday.
“In the last month it’s been good — we’ve been finding ways to win,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 30 saves and is 8-0-1 in his last nine starts. “We haven’t played our best every night but we’ve found ways to win and I think that’s the sign of a good team.
“You look at some of the previous years and we had these tight games in the third period and we just didn’t take over. But nowadays we find a way to get that goal and then take over the game and then play solid defense after that. ... That’s a big difference and I think that’s been playing a huge part this past month.”
Brad Marchand, who scored the game’s first goal, set up Bergeron’s winner 6:11 into the third for the Bruins (19-10-5).
Bergeron scored an empty-net goal in the closing seconds for his 10th goal of the season. David Backes, hours after his wife gave birth to their son, notched his second assist on the goal, which Bergeron scored as he was dragged to the ice.
“It’s been a pretty busy schedule. We knew it was going to come at some point,” Bergeron said. “We did a good job. We said that we’ll be able to settle down and rest for a few days during Christmas, so now we’re here and hopefully we can do that.
“Everyone is contributing. We’ve had some guys going in and out of the lineup, whoever has been called upon to have more responsibilities, they’ve done so. It’s been great. It’s been a fun ride and we’ve got to keep that going. I think the young guys are doing a tremendous job to be ready and to do the job and help us win games.”
The Red Wings (13-15-7) haven’t won at TD Garden since an April 14, 2014, playoff game and haven’t won in the building in the regular season since Oct. 14, 2013. Two of the Bruins’ December wins have come over the Red Wings and Boston is 12-1-1 in its last 14 against Detroit.
“On Wednesday (in Philadelphia), it’s a tie game in the third and they make a play on a rush. Same thing tonight,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They make a play on a rush. We’ve got to find a way to make a play to make the difference in a game.”
Rask, who had a slow start to his season, came in with a 1.50 goals-against average over eight starts and that went lower. Zdeno Chara saved him on one play, sweeping a loose puck out of the crease — one of many big plays made by the 40-year-old captain.
Marchand, scoring his 15th, took a pass from Backes with the Bruins having a two-man advantage in the first period. But the Wings came back before the end of the second power play on a shorthanded goal by Frans Nielsen (his ninth) to tie the game.
It was the seventh shorthanded goal of the season for the Red Wings, who came into the game tied for the league lead in that department.
Jimmy Howard played well in dropping to 5-5-2 lifetime against the Bruins, making 22 saves in the loss.
“I thought we pushed,” Blashill said. “The first wasn’t good enough. We bogged ourselves down a little bit. I thought in the second and third we pushed.
“They defend well. They do a great job that way. They’re well coached and they have good defenders. So it’s not easy ice at all.
NOTES: Bruins Fs Ryan Spooner and Riley Nash, who missed Thursday night’s game due to illness, returned. ... Boston RW David Backes missed Friday’s practice for the birth of his son, but returned with two assists. “Got about four hours (sleep) two nights ago and about three hours last night,” he said. “After what I saw my wife go through birthing that baby, I figured I could come on a few hours’ sleep and play a hockey game. Quite a 24 hours for us.” ... This was the 300th game between the Original Six teams in Boston and the 598th overall. ... Detroit RW Luke Glendening is expected to miss several weeks with an upper body injury and was replaced by the recalled Tyler Bertuzzi. ... The Red Wings return from the holiday break at New Jersey Wednesday, while the Bruins host the Ottawa Senators the same night.