- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Before the matinee puck drop between the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators Saturday at TD Garden, Bruins coach Claude Julien told his players it would be a shame to waste all the energy the team exerted during the past two days of intense practices, especially given Boston's terrible play in a 6-0 loss to the Sabres on Wednesday in Buffalo.
The Bruins responded, and the coach was pleased with the end result as Boston produced a 4-3 shootout victory over the Predators.
This type of effort has been nonexistent for the Bruins for more than a month. Now, it'll be interesting to see if they can build on it.
"I liked our game," Julien said. "No matter what the score was, the game was a good one from our end. I thought our work ethic, our commitment -- maybe four or five minutes in the second period toward the end they took momentum away from us, but other than that I felt we played a real, solid 60-minute game."
From the opening faceoff, it was evident the Bruins were motivated.
Patrice Bergeron netted the team's seventh shorthanded goal of the season at 16:00 of the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead, but it was the effort by teammate Brad Marchand that proved the Bruins came ready to compete.
The Little Ball of Hate supplied all the grunt work in the offensive zone during the penalty kill and made a nifty drop pass to Bergeron, who snipped a wrister past Pekka Rinne.
"That was a prime example of what we were looking for in tonight's game," Julien said afterward. "It was the kind of effort our team looks for and needs if it wants to be one of the better teams in the league."
It was a risky play on the PK, but the Bruins were rewarded for the effort. The key is getting the timing right. Bergeron saw Marchand had control of the puck and knew where his linemate was going to leave the puck, and it turned out to be a perfectly executed play.
"Nothing happens if [Marchand] doesn't do that," Bergeron said. "Instead of putting the puck in deep, he thought he had a chance to go out there and make a play out of it. When you're killing, sometimes you've got to try it. If you think it's not a risky play, and he's got the speed and instincts to make that play, obviously I was lucky enough to be positioned to get that puck and score, but he made the whole play happen."
With Boston holding a one-goal lead early in the second period, the Bruins' Adam McQuaid was given a two-minute penalty for roughing, and Nashville took advantage of the man advantage. Predators defenseman Shea Weber unleashed a wicked slap shot from the left point to tie the game at 1. It was Nashville's first shot of the period at 7:32.
After that goal, Julien told his players on the bench that it was the type of game they would face for the remainder of the season as opponents are fighting for playoff spots and playoff rankings.
"We can't expect to have blowouts like we did earlier in the season," Julien said. "They're going to be tight games and we need to learn to win those types of games. We're going to see a lot more of that and we need to stay focused and positive."
Action seesawed, and even though the Bruins were playing well, they found themselves trailing 3-2 in the waning minutes of regulation.
Again, Julien told the team it needed to respond. The coach wanted to make sure the team's recent frustrations did not creep back in. The Bruins caught a break late in the game and they capitalized in a big way.
Boston gained a power play at 17:42 of the third period and quickly gained control of the puck on the ensuing faceoff. With that, Julien pulled Thomas for the extra attacker to give Boston a 6-on-4 advantage, and it worked.
The Bruins' Milan Lucic, who played his best game in a while, pumped in his 20th goal of the season at 18:53 to tie it at 3. After an idle overtime period, Tyler Seguin and Bergeron scored in the shootout to help Boston to a 4-3 win.
"Well you can tell obviously by the last two days what we were trying to work on and pushing the pace and playing at a high level and a high speed," Lucic said. "We created a lot of traffic at the net -- we got a lot of pucks to the net. Obviously, I think a big reason a lot of goals didn't go in is it just goes to show how good of a goalie Pekka Rinne is. We had to work for 59 minutes to tie it up there to send it into overtime. But we played well and obviously it's great that we were able to get that win and hopefully we can play the same way here come Tuesday."
Given the Bruins' effort, it would have been an extremely tough loss for them. Instead, their recent struggles are forgotten for a day. They set themselves up in a positive way to host the Eastern Conference's top team, the New York Rangers, on Tuesday.
The last time the Bruins faced the Rangers, New York scored a devastating, 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 21 at TD Garden.
"I'm looking forward to it," Julien said. "I like the game we played last time and even though we lost, it was a heavy game with two teams that are hard to play against, and that's what we need right now. We had a great team come in today that was going to give us a challenge and they did. We've got New York coming in, then we start a six-game road trip in Montreal, and if we want to get ourselves going in the right direction, we need those kinds of challenges."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.