BOSTON -- After a strong opening period, the Bruins came out flat in the middle frame. Before they knew it, the Islanders had stolen the momentum with a short-handed penalty shot by forward Frans Nielsen at 3:41 into the period. For the next 10 minutes, the lowly Islanders had the Bruins under siege, but thankfully Tuukka Rask held the fort, keeping the game tied at one. With just under four minutes left in the period, the break the Bruins were looking for came as forward Gregory Campbell cleared the puck down ice. Rick DiPietro came flying out to play the puck, but suddenly Bruins rookie Brad Marchand was poking it loose and then chasing it down to put it in the empty net behind DiPietro.
The goal was Marchand's fourth shorthander of the season and proved to be the momentum swing the Bruins needed to beat the pesky Islanders, 5-2.
Following the game, Marchand addressed the media with a wide-eyed perma-grin and immediately credited his linemate Campbell. The two have become a solid penalty-kill duo.
"Well, Soupy [Gregory Campbell] made a great play to get the puck down the ice and I just wanted to follow it up and get in DiPietro's lane," said Marchand, who leads the NHL in shorthanded goals. "Luckily, he shot it right at me and I just put it in the open net."
In 20 games last season, Marchand showed potential to be a thorn in the sides of opponents and a pesky player who might thrive on the penalty kill, but he found himself in the sin-bin too many times. This season, however, he is the one on the ice killing penalties.
"I think the biggest thing last year was I was taking a lot of bad penalties and that's been the biggest knock on me my whole career," Marchand said. "This year I wanted to make sure that wasn't part of my game and to stay out of the box as much as I can. I think now I'm drawing more penalties than taking them. Maybe at times I'm taking some penalties that shouldn't be taken, but for the most part I'm doing a good job and trying to stay away from that. Even though my job is being a pest, there's a line that the refs always let me know every game, telling me when to stop and I try to stop. I don't want Claude to be thinking I'm a liability out there."
Head coach Claude Julien agreed and has noticed the conscious effort by Marchand not to cross over the line. Known as a chirper and a pest, he's still able to maintain that role but he's learning how not to cross the line.
"It's improving, not quite there yet," Julien said of Marchand. "A few times I've had to tell him to pick his spots a little better. It's the last thing, again, a player that plays on the edge like that will always have the referees watching him closely so he's got to be careful that he's smart about how he does it. I think he's done a pretty good job that way. He's a player that will get on you quickly. He's a good skater that can close the gap quickly and put pressure on the other teams D's. He's done a good job at that. I think he's been disciplined. Even when there's scrums, he's known when to stay in there and when to step out."
All four of Marchand's goals are shorthanded and he -- along with the entire penalty kill -- are becoming a threat not only to keep the opponent from scoring but also to score themselves.
"A lot of them are just luck and being in the right place at the right time. I don't expect to be scoring many goals on the PK, but I'll take them when I can get them," Marchand said.
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.