Birthday boy McAvoy, Bruins top Jets in shootout
BOSTON — Charlie McAvoy picked a perfect way to celebrate his 20th birthday.
The rookie defenseman, who has become a contender for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, scored in the fourth round of a shootout, giving the Boston Bruins their third consecutive victory, a 2-1 decision over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
“Cherry on top of a great effort by our team,” McAvoy said after the win. “We were able to come out on top. We feel really good about ourselves in here.”
They had a right to feel good — because so many of them felt so bad.
Sickness is going through the locker room, with winning goaltender Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand able to play and forward Ryan Spooner not.
“I don’t want to go through the whole room, because we will re-evaluate tomorrow, but Marchy was one of the worst ones along with Nash and Spooner,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “(Marchand) just happened to find enough energy to get out there and play. The other guys hadn’t eaten all day.”
Rask got help from the post in turning aside Nikolaj Ehlers’ fourth-round shootout attempt, and McAvoy beat Connor Hellebuyck at the other end to win it.
The Bruins are 12-3-1 in their past 16 games.
“I know that the ice wasn’t particularly great there at the end,” McAvoy said of his winning shot. “I know it’s a little bit more of a high percentage play for myself to try and shoot it versus a deke, especially when the ice is the way it is.
“I tried to change the angle right away, not come down on him. Just straight up kind of make him change his own angle a bit, and you know, I saw some room on the blocker side and I just wanted to shoot it there before he was able to recover.”
The loss dropped the Jets (20-10-6) to 1-14-1 in the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise’s past 16 games at TD Garden.
“It was a good grinder,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “It was hard to move the puck, both teams had some chances and they just couldn’t complete the pass or make the play to get it going.
“It’s a grinder and no fun to play, and we did a good job of staying in that.”
Bryan Little opened the skills competition with a goal against Rask, who ended a four-shootout losing streak to improve to just 22-29 in the tiebreakers. David Pastrnak also scored in the shootout for the Bruins (18-10-5).
“It was a good game from us,” said Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, who scored his team’s regulation goal. “I think we played really good hockey. It’s always, when it goes to shootout, it’s a whole different game, and today we didn’t score enough goals in the shootout but at least we got a point.”
Rask, who is 7-0-1 in his past eight starts, made 37 saves.
“I’m one of those (sick) guys, so a little bit, yeah, but sometimes it works, you know? I’m fine,” Rask said. “It’s just going around a little bit.”
Boston’s Torey Krug and Laine swapped third-period goals in less than a minute to set up the overtime.
Hellebuyck made 32 saves but fell to 0-2-1 against the Bruins in his young career.
“I like making the stops. I don’t really like watching them at the other end but ... it was a good game,” Hellebuyck said. “(Rask) played pretty well. ... We got a point, but we want more.”
Krug received an errant clearing pass by Winnipeg defenseman Tucker Poolman, moved in and fired a wrist shot home 8:16 into the third period, but the lead didn’t last long.
Boston’s Sean Kuraly fell down playing the puck behind his net. Little picked it up and got it in front to Ehlers, who in turn sent it over to Laine. With an open side, Laine took his time and scored for the third game in a row just 57 seconds after the Bruins took the lead.
NOTES: The Bruins placed C David Krejci (back) on injured reserve. He won’t return until at least after the holiday break. ... Because of the Bruins’ illnesses, C Colby Cave recalled from AHL Providence on an emergency basis for his NHL debut. He played with Bruins rookie LW Jake DeBrusk in junior hockey. ... Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice coached his 1,401st NHL game. He will move into eighth place on the league’s all-time list when the Jets visit the New York Islanders on Saturday. ... The Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.