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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Loui Eriksson's Third Career Hat Trick (1st With Boston) Leads Bruins to A 4-2 Win Over Wild

In his third year in Boston and most importantly, with a clean bill of health, Loui Eriksson has been the Bruins' most consistent player so far this season. Tonight, he was rewarded with his third career hat trick (1st for the Bruins) as the B's (9-8-1) beat the Wild (10-5-3) 4-2 at TD Garden. Boston is 2-2 on its longest homestand of the season with the finale on Saturday night (7, NESN) vs. Toronto (6-9-4). This victory improved their wretched home record to 3-6-1.

Jonas Gustavsson (4-1-0) made his first start as a Bruin at the Garden and it was a good one since he had 24 saves to earn the third star of the game. Given how bad Tuukka Rask has been and the fact that Gustavsson hadn't played in nearly two weeks (11/7 at Montreal was his last outing) created an easy decision for Bruins head coach Claude Julien. I have no doubt that Rask will be back in between the pipes on Saturday but Gustavsson should be in action again on Monday when Boston travels to Toronto.

The Bruins still have the worst penalty kill in the NHL but it took a step forward tonight. They killed a Minnesota power play that started less than a minute into the game and went 3-for-3 for the duration of the contest. Brad Marchand made it 1-0 Boston at 5:30 when he wrapped around the net and beat Devan Dubnyk (34 saves) after Brett Connolly's shot from the slot had missed the net. It was Marchand's seventh goal of the season.

Boston showed some toughness (something which has been rare for them this season) as Matt Beleskey fought Brett Bulmer four seconds after Marchand's goal. Apparently it was a spur of the moment thing because Bulmer is a nobody who was just playing in his second NHL game of the year. Ryan Spooner had a great chance on a 2-on-1 late in the frame but his shot hit the crossbar.

The Bruins had a two-man advantage for 1:16 but they weren't able to convert as Dubnyk made a couple great saves. Jason Zucker tied it at 5:12 of the second period after Gustavsson gave him a juicy rebound. Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter assisted on Zucker's sixth goal of the season. Rookie Frank Vatrano got crushed along the boards by Minnesota defenseman Nate Prosser, he went to the dressing room and never returned because of he suffered a concussion (no word on the severity).

Loui's hat trick was the first for a Bruin since David Krejci's in 2014 (March 4, 2014 vs. Tim Thomas and Florida) and the fastest since Brad Boyes in 2006 (March 18 vs. Carolina). The Swede got it started when his centering pass to Connolly at 7:37 went off a Wild skate and in the net. Krejci and McQuaid assisted on Eriksson's seventh goal of the season. For a guy that's not particularly big or strong, Eriksson does a nice job of going to the net and using his hands to score many goals. He struck on the power play (Boston's PP remains No. 1 in the NHL) in that fashion at 11:21, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug.

The Wild were playing in the final game of a four-game road trip without their star Zach Parise but they showed some heart by cutting it to 3-2 at 13:37 of the second. Jordan Schroeder tipped Ryan Suter's wrist shot from the point with the other assist going to Ryan Carter. One crazy note on Suter: he leads the NHL in ice time and he played 32:36 (32 shifts!) tonight. He must be a cyborg, that's not human.

Eriksson finished the hat trick at 4:14 of the third period with a one-timer from Krejci and Beleskey. Ironically, he and Tyler Seguin have the same amount of hat tricks at the Garden in 2015-16. For two teams that rarely see each other, there was some nastiness particularly at the end when Colin Miller got a game misconduct after a large scrum. After the final whistle, Zucker had to be helped off following a seemingly innocent tap by Beleskey behind his knee. I have no idea if he typically embellishes stuff but you would have thought that he broke his leg or something, very strange scene.

Not that it should matter since the Maple Leafs are still one of the worst teams in the league but Toronto is at Carolina (6-10-2) tomorrow night before coming to Boston. I've said it before and it hasn't happened thus far but this little stretch here before Thanksgiving is a perfect time for the B's to put a win streak together. We shall see, the first part is to win back-to-back games at home-a simple task which they haven't successfully completed yet this season.

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