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Austin Czarnik, Ryan Spooner finally back on board for shuffled Bruins

12.13.16 at 10:20 am ET
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Austin Czarnik snapped a 16-game goalless drought in Monday's 2-1 victory over the Canadiens. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

Austin Czarnik snapped a 16-game goalless drought in Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Canadiens. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

A frustrated Claude Julien was honest about his third line following the club’s third straight loss, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Maple Leafs, and their year-long lack of production for the club.

“We definitely need more scoring throughout our lineup, there’s no doubt about that,” the decade-long Bruins coach said. “You want to spread your scoring, our third-line needs to give us some production, doesn’t matter, it just seems whoever has been on that line we haven’t had a lot of production there. It’s got to be spread out, but at the same time I don’t care who scores them we just have to score.”

The line’s right winger, Austin Czarnik, didn’t disagree.

“I just need to bear down,” Czarnik said Saturday. “It’s just unacceptable at this level. It just needs to happen. We’re working hard as a team; we’re getting our opportunities at least. It’s not like we’re not getting them. We just need to be able to bear down and find the back of the net.”

It was entering Monday’s game with the Canadiens that the main skaters of the Bruins’ third — Czarnik, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Riley Nash, and Ryan Spooner — had combined for just nine goals and 26 points (seven of which came on the power play) through the first 29 games of the season. Those totals aren’t horrible on the surface — but then you realize it’s by five different skaters, and that several of those players entered the week riding significant droughts.

Nash, on a 10-game pointless drought, was bumped down to the fourth line. Spooner, with just two assists in his last 13 contests, was kept on the line, and the same for Czarnik, who was without a goal in 16 games, though he was moved back to his natural center position, while it was Hayes that drew back into the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch in the previous contest.

And naturally, it was from the third line that scored both B’s goals in a 2-1 overtime win over the rival Canadiens.

First came a goal from Czarnik, who turned 24 years old that night, at the 18:55 mark of the second period, to put the Bruins up 1-0. The goal showed off some of what earned Czarnik an NHL spot in the first place; Excellent poise with the puck, tremendous speed through the neutral zone, and a sneakily effective shot. The smile on the birthday boy’s face said it all.

“I thought he played well there in the middle and not have to battle so much with his size on the wall,” Julien said of Czarnik. “It’s nice to see he can play both, but no doubt he was a big help and probably a better player for tonight down the middle.”

Then came the game-winning overtime goal from Spooner, the perfect finish to a minute-plus of attacking zone time on a beautiful five-hole tuck through Carey Price, and good for his fourth goal of the year (and his first since Nov. 12 in Arizona).

“We need more goal scoring from a little bit of everybody,” Julien maintained after the win, which put an end to a three-game losing streak for the team. “[Monday] was a good night for that. They did a great job of giving us the goals we needed, and hopefully that continues and we get some scoring spread out a little bit more.”

It’s just a one-game sample, of course, but the instant results are more than encouraging for a Black and Gold squad that will need even more goals ahead of a Wednesday head-to-head with a Penguins team averaging a league-best 3.52 goals per night.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask struggles against the Canadiens, just not in Montreal

12.13.16 at 4:57 am ET
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Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finally beat Carey Price in a head-to-head. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask finally beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in a head-to-head Monday at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today Sports)

Say what you will about Tuukka Rask’s career numbers against the Canadiens. And I’ll be the first to admit that the figures Rask entered Monday’s game with — just five wins and a .909 save percentage in 24 career games against the Canadiens — look pretty indefensible. But if there’s one place where Rask has consistently flipped the script against the Canadiens, it has not been at TD Garden, or even Gillette Stadium for that matter, but rather the Canadiens’ own building.

And that road success, along with a timely overtime goal from Ryan Spooner, came through for the Black and Gold once again and was the biggest reason why they escaped their Monday in Montreal with a valuable two points in their pockets, as the 29-year-old stopped all but one of 31 shots faced en route to a 2-1 overtime win for the Bruins.

In what was the B’s first win over Canadiens netminder Carey Price since Feb. 2013 (10 starts ago for No. 31 in red), and the closing chapter of a frustrating three-game losing streak for the Bruins, it was the fiery Finnish netminder that came up with the one extra stop (and absorbed one more Torrey Mitchell check than he should ever have to) that the club needed for the victory.

“It was a duel of obviously two of the best goaltenders around, so it was nice to see [Tuukka] win this duel,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the victory. “Both goaltenders were great, and at the end, I’d like to say ours was better.”

Better than Price, even for just one night, Rask improved his Bell Centre numbers to six wins, dropped his goals against average in that building down to 1.99 and bumped his save percentage up to a .933 in 12 starts. Rask’s victory also means that he’s exited Montreal ice with a victory in five of his last eight starts in The City of Saints, with just 14 goals surrendered and a .941 save percentage over that span. He’s also put together five efforts of at least 30 saves with just one goal allowed, with Monday’s night standing as the fifth, and has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his 12 starts in Montreal overall.

Compare those numbers to Rask’s head-to-head figures against the Habs in Boston — a seemingly impossible 0-9-3 record and  .890 save percentage with 38 goals allowed on 345 shots against since 2007 — and you’re left understandably mystified.

Why is it that Rask can’t take his Bell Centre game to the Garden? The, y’know, home rink? Where there’s 17,565 games for him opposed to the 20,000-plus that are very much against him and practically on top of him in what’s perhaps the steepest arena in the league (attend one game at the Bell Centre and you’ll get why referees make so many utterly terrible calls in the Habs’ favor).

Do the splits against the Canadiens make sense? Of course not. But maybe they don’t have to when looking at the big picture.

No matter what goaltender Rask has done or will do for the Bruins this season, it would all seem to mean squat without a victory — or at the very least, a showing, something he did not accomplish in either of the first two meetings with the Habs this year, the first due to injury and second because of a coach’s decision  — against the hated Canadiens. And as unfair as that may be — and it’s probably pretty unfair given what Rask has meant to the Black and Gold this season — that’s the plain old truth given the fact that a deep playoff run for this team likely doesn’t come without a playoff series against the Habs. Especially in the fancy, still relatively new playoff format that forces you to work through your own division through the first two rounds of postseason play.

In a hostile environment and playoff-like atmosphere Monday, too, Rask and the Bruins got just that.

Something that might just give you a little bit more confidence if these teams are to meet sometime this spring.

And maybe even leave you hoping for a home ice advantage that favors the Habs, as unconventional as that may sound.

5 Things We Learned as Bruins snap three-game slide with overtime win over Canadiens

12.12.16 at 10:30 pm ET
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The hate was back in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry Monday night at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

The hate was back in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry Monday night at the Bell Centre. (Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

It took two overtime goals just to get one, but the Bruins finally have a win against Canadiens netminder Carey Price — for the first time since Feb. 6, 2013 — behind a 2-1 overtime final at the Bell Centre.

Squared up with the Habs with the third of just four meetings between the longtime rivals slated for this season, a 60-minute war of attrition solved nothing between the two, not after birthday boy Austin Czarnik’s late second period goal (and his first in 16 games), was answered by Paul Byron at the 16:48 mark of the third period.

Onto a three-on-three overtime for the second time in their last four games, the Bruins appeared to have scored when David Pastrnak was hooked and went crashing into Price before David Krejci slid in and tucked the puck home.

But an official review determined that while the puck did go into the net before the whistle was blown, that it was Pastrnak’s collision with Price that took No. 31 out of the play allowed Krejci to collect what would have been his fifth goal of the new campaign.

But instead of cowering after denial by the officials in a hostile environment, the Black and Gold responded with extended zone time that hemmed the Canadiens in their own zone, and eventually crack behind a Ryan Spooner breakaway that finished the Habs off behind a brilliant move that saw No. 51 beat Price through his sweeping five hole and into the net.

And after yet another review, this one counted, and gone was the Bruins’ three-game losing streak.

Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask made 29 saves in the winning effort, while Price stopped 27-of-29 in defeat.

Here are four other things we learned in a spirited affair at the Bell Centre…

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Bruins’ Tuukka Rask expected in net vs. Carey Price, Canadiens

12.12.16 at 4:25 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask is expected in net for the Bruins vs. the Canadiens tonight. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask is expected in net for the Bruins vs. the Canadiens tonight. (Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports)

In an attempt to prevent what would be a season-high four-game losing streak (the Bruins have gone 0-2-1 in their last three contests), the Bruins are expected to turn to their best, goaltender Tuukka Rask, in a Monday night showdown with Carey Price and the Canadiens.

In net for two of those three games (Anton Khudobin got the nod in net Thursday night against the Avalanche), the B’s offense has done little to help their netminders, finding themselves in an 0-3 deficit by the second period in the first two games of the losing streak, and an 0-2 hole midway through the second period in their last contest.

“It’s tough especially when we try to score that first goal and play with the lead and then the last couple of games we’ve been letting in two or three goals for the other team and then trying to catch up,” Rask said of the club’s early holes after Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs. “And, it’s not easy. It’s mentally – it takes a lot out of you.. It’s frustrating a little bit but we’ll battle through it and we’ll get the results I’m sure.”

It doesn’t get any easier for Rask and the B’s this week, with tonight’s head-to-head with the Canadiens, who scored 10 goals in their last game, and with games against the defending champion Penguins (in Pittsburgh, where they have been virtually unbeatable this season at 11-2-1), games against the visiting Ducks and Kings before this time next week.

But it begins with tonight’s head-to-head at the Bell Centre, and it begins with Rask.

Rask’s resume against the Canadiens is well known by now, with the 29-year-old entering tonight’s game with just five wins and a .910 save percentage in 24 games against the Habs. Of the eight teams Rask has played at least 16 times, it’s by far his lowest win total, with Rask’s eight in 18 career games against the Sens being his lowest total. Rask has yet to play against the Habs this season, too, as he was an injured scratch from the first meeting between the two, a 4-2 loss on Oct. 22, and rode the pine for their Nov. 8 loss to the Habs in Montreal, a 3-2 final and a game played on the second night of a traveling back-to-back for the B’s. (Rask, by the way, wanted that Nov. 8 start against the Canadiens, but seemingly unsuccessfully lobbied to his coach for it.)

It is worth noting, though, that all five of Rask’s wins over the Canadiens have come on the road, where he is 5-6-0 with a .930 save percentage in 12 games played (11 starts). Rask has also tallied wins in four of his last seven games in Montreal’s building, with just 13 goals allowed over that span, including a victory behind a 38-of-39 effort in his last road game against the Habs.

In the opposite crease, Price prepares for his 21st start of the season with some straight-up insane numbers to his name, with 16 wins and a .940 save percentage (and .955 save percentage at even strength), and 24 wins in 36 career games against the Bruins.

Price comes into tonight’s game without a loss to the Bruins since Feb. 6, 2013, 10 starts ago.

This is the third of four meetings between the Bruins and Canadiens this year, with the Habs having won both prior meetings.

Lacking finish and with losses mounting, Bruins shake up lines for game vs. Canadiens

12.12.16 at 2:31 pm ET
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The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 20 of 29 games this season. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Of the 70 shot attempts by the Bruins in their Saturday night head-to-head with the visiting (and straight-up woeful) Maple Leafs, 33 landed on net. Just one, however, made it through Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen and into the back of the net for a Bruins goal in what was a 4-1 loss. The game before that, a 4-2 loss to the then-worst team in the league Avalanche, the Bruins landed 31 of their 62 shot attempts on Avs netminder Calvin Pickard, but just two shots went into the cage, both off David Pastrnak shots, for his 17th and 18th goals of the year.

It’s been the same story for the Bruins, just on different nights.

“When it was zero-zero we were still in it, but at the end of the night it seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams – chances for versus against – but we don’t outscore teams,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “That’s where the biggest issue is right now.  Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games and because of that we criticize everything else in our game – but our game isn’t that bad. If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part.

“There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

Ain’t that the truth.

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Bruins sign forward Jesse Gabrielle to entry-level contract

12.11.16 at 12:11 pm ET
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Jesse Gabrielle

Jesse Gabrielle

Although the current on-ice product has struggled with losses in three straight contests (0-2-1), Bruins general manager made sure he took care of own of the club’s future talents Sunday morning, with the signing of winger Jesse Gabrielle to his three-year, entry-level contract with the club.

Gabrielle, 19, was drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round with the 105th overall pick of the 2015 draft, and is in the midst of another standout campaign with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. With 19 goals and 31 points through the first 26 games of the season, the Moosomin, Sask., native has continued his torrid pace from a year ago, that included 40 goals and 75 points in 72 games last year.

Over his four-year WHL career with the Cougars, Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings, Gabrielle has appeared in 214 games, recording 94 goals and 81 assists for 175 points with 320 penalty minutes.

Gabrielle, also appeared in three games for the Providence Bruins last year on an amateur tryout after his WHL season had concluded, where he went without a point with one penalty taken and six shots on net.

He is the seventh of the Bruins’ 10 members from their 2015 draft class to have signed his entry-level contract.

Bruins forward Noel Acciari looks back to normal in return to action

12.10.16 at 11:09 pm ET
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Bruins forward Noel Acciari skated in his first game since Nov. 7 in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins forward Noel Acciari skated in his first game since Nov. 7 in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

In case you didn’t know it by sight, the sound of the TD Garden boards rattling with each hit dished out by Bruins forward Noel Acciari served as a reminder that the 24-year-old was back in the lineup.

Absent from the previous 16 games with a lower-body injury, Acciari was back in his normal spot on the B’s fourth line with center Dominic Moore and winger Tim Schaller, and put forth another workmanlike performance, with two shots and three hits in 11:35 of time ice.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates,” Acciari admitted after his first game back, a 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. “I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on, and that’ll come with a couple more practices and games together.”

Deployed as the club’s energy line by Claude Julien, the Schaller-Moore-Acciari combination was its usual complementary group, with solid possession and pressure in the Toronto end, while also chipping in with their normal, aforementioned physicality. But Acciari knows the group could be even better.

“Just kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured,” Acciari, who has tallied two assists in 13 games for the Bruins this year, noted. “It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score.”

But if there’s a positive to take with Acciari — who played a one-game get-your-legs-back game with the P-Bruins, a Friday win over the Marlies in which he recorded an assist — it’s from the fact that his game very much still what it’s been for the Bruins since he burst onto the scene late last season, and that his lower-body ailment didn’t appear to limit him at all.

“You can’t think about it, because once you start thinking about it, that’s when you hurt yourself again,” Acciari admitted. “Out there, you play your game, whatever that may be, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

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