Bruins offense shows signs of life but has a long way to go

The Bruins had to have a collective sigh of relief when Jack Studnicka — with his first career NHL goal, no less — broke the team’s even strength scoreless streak.

It took 267:38 for the Bruins to score five on five, dating back to August when David Krejci scored in Game 5 of the Second Round against the Lightning.

Needless to say, they desperately needed a spark; in the 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers in their home opener on Thursday night, it finally came.

“What was said in the room (during the second intermission) is that we’re too easy to play against offensively,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We discussed a couple of ways we can get better, harder to play against, and in a little forceful manner so the message gets across.”

While the Bruins are without David Pastrnak and now Ondrej Kase, their right side — already thin over the years — is a game of musical chairs. Jake DeBrusk, a left winger, was boosted up to the right of Patrice Bergeron while Studnicka played on the right of Krejci.

The rookie hasn’t been perfect, but his goal crashing the net on Thursday was exactly what they need more of as he turned in a solid game.

One four-goal third period outburst against a decimated Flyers defense doesn’t spell the end of the Bruins five-on-five woes overnight, though. Boston has struggled with that element for years, and while a sudden surge is a positive sign, it shouldn’t be seen as a cure-all.

“We know we’re an offensive group in there,” Studnicka said. “Just try not to get frustrated. It was fortunate that pucks started going in.”

The Bruins offense could struggle until Pastrnak is healthy and the entire right wing depth chart is operating as expected. Having Nick Ritchie as the most productive forward in the lineup isn’t exactly sustainable, though his contributions — including a power play goal on Thursday — have eased the burden.

Where they might have to worry is on the other side of young offensive wingers. Anders Bjork played just 2:04 of the third period after being benched for the first half of it, and his production hasn’t been there despite being in a prominent role aside Charlie Coyle.

Bjork has been plagued with inconsistency since day one with the Bruins, switching lines and wings and undergoing two shoulder surgeries. He appeared to have turned a corner last season with 19 points in 58 games.

That’s still not where they’d hoped he would be, and they expect another boost this season if he can get extended time with Coyle — not a given with all their line switching.

With no points in four games so far, Bjork has been somewhat invisible, which doesn’t help when the offense needs sparks from all angles. In 10:45 of ice time on Thursday, he didn’t register a shot on goal.

“I believe if it’s not (time for him to step up), it’s really close,” Cassidy said Friday. “Someone’s going to come out, assuming everyone stays healthy. There’s always guys pushing from underneath. (Karson) Kuhlman missed some time here. We like him as a depth player. Anton Blidh’s a left winger who can give us some energy. There’s always somebody ready to push you.”

Credit: ChartingHockey

It’s not really fair to assume the Bruins won’t get better either, when Pastrnak is healthy and they have a full lineup again. After all, they are the type of team that can randomly score four goals in the third period then win it in the shootout (2021 is a new year)!

In an ideal world, the Brad Marchands and Patrice Bergerons wouldn’t be stagnant five-on-five, with Pastrnak or not. But, with a depleted and weak prospect system as it is, the young players making the most of their ice time is a nessecity.

Studnicka has always been the higher ranking prospect in the Bruins system, and has made the transition from center to wing without missing too much of a beat. He’s taken his opportunity to get consistent time and ran with it, taking criticism to heart with a focus on being a net crasher more.

They want to see more of that out of Bjork, too; maybe then their scoring outside the power play can get an ounce of consistency.

“We as coaches are trying to build his confidence,” Cassidy said Friday. “But we’re trying to win hockey games. Last night, we’re behind and we’re going to put the people on the ice that give us the best chance to win.”

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.