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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hell Freezes Over (Again): Jimmy Hayes Scores His 1st Goal for the Bruins In 2016-17

Coming in on a three-game losing streak (outscored 9-4 in the process) and with captain Zdeno Chara gleefully cheering from the press box (more on that later), the Bruins (12-10-0) desperately needed a victory on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden vs. the Lightning (13-9-1). Surprisingly enough they got it in pretty easy fashion, 4-1, with even Jimmy Hayes finding the back of the net for the home team. Boston opened up a scoreless affair with a trio of goals in the second period and capped it off with one more in the third period before Tampa Bay avoided the shutout with a Victor Hedman goal in garbage time (that deflected in off a Bruins skate).

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (30 saves, 12-4-0) has been superb all season but the funny part is this marked the fourth time already that he's lost a shutout with less than five minutes left in regulation (11/1 at Florida, 11/17 at Minnesota, 11/19 vs. Winnipeg). He's been by far Boston's best player and he's reclaimed his spot as one of the top goalies in the NHL but it just goes to show you how thin the margin is for the upper echelon players like himself.

Things weren't nearly as enjoyable for Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop (26 saves, 7-8-0) who fell to 4-5-3 in his career against Boston. Dominic Moore (read my feature about him in tomorrow's edition of Metro Boston!) continued to rack up goals at a crazy pace (at least for him). Colin Miller (who made his return for the 1st time in 2 weeks) chipped a puck into Tampa Bay's zone that Moore chopped out of mid-air for his sixth goal of the season at 2:24 of the second period. Ryan Spooner also assisted on Moore's goal which tied him with Brad Marchand for second on the team in goals and matched his entire total from all of last season with the Rangers.

At weekend afternoon contests, you don't expect to see much action but this game was a pleasant surprise in that regard. These teams clearly don't like each other as you could see late in the first period when lightweights Torey Krug and Nikita Kucherov fought each other. There were also plenty of skirmishes after the whistle all game long. Additionally, the Bruins potted a few pretty goals which for them is a big accomplishment in many ways. David Backes scored on a rare double deflection from Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug at 12:30 of the second period. It was Backes' fifth goal of the season and it gave Boston a 2-0 lead.

You know that it was the Bruins' day when Hayes scored his first goal of the season at 17:33 of the second for a 3-0 Boston advantage. Not only was it his first point of the season (in 20 games!) but dating back to last season, his first goal in 36 games. Seriously, when you are a 6-foot-5 forward in the NHL how is that remotely possible? Anywho, Chara happened to be next to me in the press box at the time (waiting to go downstairs to the locker room between periods) and like when a little kid that stinks at sports does something positive, Chara started clapping like a Little League dad or soccer mom when Jimmy got the proverbial monkey off his back (props to him for celebrating by throwing said monkey to the rafters).

Even for this limited offensive group, David Pastrnak just can't stop scoring goals. He threw the puck at the net in the third period and it deflected off a Lightning player past Bishop. Krug and Marchand assisted on Pastrnak's team-leading 13th goal of the season (2nd most in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby). Pasta has 10 points (9 goals, 1 assist) in his last 10 games. Is that good?

As weeks go in the NHL, this upcoming one doesn't look too daunting on paper for the Black and Gold: they are at the Flyers (9-10-3) on Tuesday (7:30, NESN, they host the Hurricanes (8-8-4) on Thursday (7, NESN) and go to Buffalo (7-9-5) next Saturday afternoon (1, NESN)-their second of 13 matinees this season. They have been a good road team so far this season (7-5-0) and whatever shape that they're in health-wise (John-Michael Liles left in the 1st period today with what looked like a concussion), I still expect them to beat the dregs of the Eastern Conference like those three blah opponents.

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