It was a frigid day in Boston, but the Bruins were quick to ignite the ice for fans during their matinee on Saturday, topping the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.
Bruins goaltender Rask stopped 36 of 37 shots faced, while Jets goaltender Pavelec stopped 25 of 29 between the opposing pipes. Jets Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring for Winnipeg with his 9th of the season at 10:54 of the first. Byfuglien was the lone scorer for a struggling offensive Jets team.
It was Daniel Paille who struck first for the Bruins at 14:06 of the first period marking his sixth of the season. The goal lit the lamp and opened the offensive rush for what would be the first of four goals on a Saturday afternoon in Boston.
The game however, wasn’t specifically about the black and gold, but the red, white and blue as well. Team USA hockey was well represented as the entire women’s team took in the game — receiving a standing ovation and turning the Garden into an outpouring of “USA, USA” cheers. The roster, which was announced during Wednesday’s Winter Classic showcases a talented group of women, many of which hold ties to Massachusetts. One player in specific, who was excited to be catching Bruins hockey, Team USA captain Megan Duggan who hails from Danvers.
“It’s an honor obviously, it’s a great group of girls,” said Duggan on captaincy. “We all work together and it’s an easy team to lead, everyone works so hard and we’re on the right path.”
The team will be training in the Boston area, at The Edge in Bedford and Belmont Hill which features an Olympic sized sheet of ice in the weeks leading up to Sochi. It was revealed that if scheduling allows, they may even take in the ice currently blanketing the field at historic Fenway Park.
The women weren’t the only Olympians taking in today’s contest, one was playing in it. Jets forward Blake Wheeler was named to the men’s roster and will head to Sochi to represent the United States come February.
“It’s a huge honor no doubt about it,” said Wheeler . “It was a great day and I feel honored to be a part of the group.”
Although American, Torey Krug doesn’t don the roster for Team USA –he was however a key in the victory for Boston. Despite suffering a rough stretch in his past few contests, Krug found himself netting two goals in the second period at 3:08 and 7:18 respectively. The pressure of a difficult run as of late in mind, the need to score certainly weighed in.
“A little bit. Any time you aren’t contributing the way maybe you were before you get frustrated,” said Krug. “All you can do is help the team win and when you’re not contributing it’s tough but it is a good feeling when you get the first one, actually I was hoping Flo [Justin Florek] got his – Justin Florek got his first NHL goal I was hoping he tipped it, but it was nice.”
The game itself was old time rough and tough hockey, with two fights coming just two seconds apart and little over three minutes into the opening period. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara dropped the gloves with Jets Chris Thorburn at 3:16, while Bruins Matt Fraser tried his fist at the fighting game against a size-ably larger James Wright at 3:18. With resident tough guy Shawn Thornton sitting out a 15-game suspension, other members of the black and gold have skated in to the enforcer roll when called upon.
Bruins defensemen Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves with former teammate Mark Stuart at 13:40 of the third to round out the games fighting majors.
“I don’t think there’s anything to say,” said Bruins McQuaid on his fight with Stuart. “I mean I think everyone says when you go out there and play everyone is an opponent. I have a lot of respect for him and how he plays, he plays hard. He was a good teammate, and well liked here when he played here. But it just kind of came to that point in the situation.”
Reilly Smith continued to impress, marking his 15th goal of the season at 9:59 of the third to close out the scoring. While Krug had the go-ahead goals in the second, Smith’s helped in sealing the Jets fate.
The Bruins will have a reprieve from the New England cold this coming week, but it won’t be a treat when they head to California. Facing off against a hot Anaheim team Tuesday, followed by a contest with the struggling Kings on Thursday, the team wraps up it’s road trip on Saturday in Sharks territory. While the Bruins have prevailed on the road, finding success throughout Canada with three wins and one loss in early December, the challenge of reproducing those results is a necessity with half the season in the books.
“Well it’s going to be a challenge, I’ve said it all along, the players know about it,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “We mine as well mention the fact that they have a combined 6 regulation losses between those three teams so it goes to show you how hard it is to go there and win some hockey games. It’s a challenge that I and the rest of the team are really looking forward to because that’s the kind of challenge we need right now.”
The Pink Puck will be in a California state of mind as we fly west for Saturday’s contest in San Jose — follow our trip over @thepinkpuck or by following Editor-in-Chief @winter_adams and Associate Editor @jessicahigham