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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bruins Are Officially Back: Tuukka Rask Records His First Win Of 2011-12

It took some time (namely October) to work out the kinks and a bunch of losses, but the Boston Bruins have finally returned to form last seen consistently in the playoffs.

The B's (6-7-0) captured their third straight win tonight, 6-2 at the TD Garden over the New York Islanders (4-6-2). With the victory, Boston got out of the Eastern Conference basement and dare I say, they'll likely never return there again in 2011-12.

It was a teamwide exorcism of sorts since backup goaltender Tuukka Rask (1-3-0) picked up his first win of the season with 24 saves. With Rich Peverley out with an undisclosed injury, Benoit Pouliot made the most of his playing time by scoring his first goal for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps most importantly in the bigger picture, Nathan Horton (2 goals, 1 assist), David Krejci (1 goal, 2 assists) and Milan Lucic (1 goal, 1 assist) had by far their best game as a line. After some shifting around, the former top trio has been reunited and tonight's outburst was long overdue for them.

The first period was rather crazy as the teams combined for five goals. Pouliot began the madness with his goal at 1:32 from Jordan Caron. He was waiting on the goalmouth, all he had to do was poke it in since Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (9 saves) was out of position.

Three seconds after Boston's goal, Adam McQuaid and New York's Matt Martin fought.

Matt Moulson tied it up with his third of the season at 5:52 with assists to Steve Staios (a former Bruin) and Michael Grabner. He stationed himself in front of Rask and made a nice tip-in.

Horton (3rd of the season) made it 2-1 with a power-play goal at 13:38 from Zdeno Chara (2 assists) and Krejci. He went in the "dirty areas" and snapped it by Nabokov after a rebound from Chara's blast.

For the fourth time in the past two games, the Bruins struck for a pair of goals in under a minute as Tyler Seguin (8th of the season) lit the lamp at 14:07 from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That line already has excellent chemistry; Seguin and Marchand's speed compliments Bergeron's all-around prowess very nicely. Bergeron was behind the net and he found Seguin open in front of the net.

Nabokov was pulled after Seguin's goal with Al Montoya (22 saves) taking over for the last two plus frames.

Michael Grabner (4th of the season) pulled the Isles within one at 18:36 with assists to John Tavares and Moulson. The B's gave him too much space in the slot and they paid for it as he whipped it past Rask.

Things calmed down with a scoreless second period.

Boston put it in the win column with another lightning fast pair of goals early in the third. Lucic (7th of the season) from Horton and Krejci at 4:34 and Horton (4th) from Joe Corvo and Dennis Seidenberg boosted their confidence. Lucic's was on a perfect 2-on-0 sequence by him and Horton who fed him an easy tap in. Horton's goal was off a rebound as his backhander went through Montoya's pads.

Krejci added an empty-netter as the Islanders made the dumb decision to pull Montoya with four minutes remaining in regulation. Chara and Lucic assisted on Krejci's third goal of the season.

Boston's special teams were excellent in the win, scoring a power-play goal on its only man advantage chance while also going 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

One of the keys to the PK, Daniel Paille, went down in the third period after taking a Staios slap shot off his face/nose. He was on the ice for a while and left for stitches in the dressing room. NESN's broadcast didn't show it but on Twitter I saw a picture of Paille's helmet which was covered in his blood (the ice needed lengthy repairs to clean up the murder scene). I never thought I'd say it in my life but hopefully Paille doesn't miss much if any time. He's a big part of this team, albeit in his limited but still important role.

By outscoring its last three opponents (Ottawa, Toronto and New York) 18-5, the Bruins have dug themselves out of an awful start to 2011-12.

One of the real surprises of the young season comes to the Garden on Thursday night as Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers have been a top club in the Western Conference. Keep an eye out for their top line of Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (No. 1 pick in 2011) and Jordan Eberle. It's already a great line and someday it could be the best one in the NHL.

UPDATE 11/8: Paille has a broken nose and facial lacerations. He'll have surgery tomorrow at Mass. General Hospital. The Bruins have declared him day-to-day in Patriots speak so we shall see if he's healthy enough to dress on Thursday night. If him and Rich Peverley both miss the Oilers game, the B's will need to call up a player from the Providence Bruins.

UPDATE 11/9: Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty (of Hacks with Haggs fame) lists Paille as doubtful for tomorrow's game. The good news is that Rich Peverley practiced today meaning that he'll likely return and Benoit Pouliot will shift to the fourth line.

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