For the second time in a week, the Atlanta Thrashers visited the Bruins with similar results. Just like last week, Ondrej Pavelec started in net for Atlanta and gave up three quick goals in the first period and was replaced by Johan Hedberg. For the Bruins, this time it was Tuukka Rask getting the nod as Tim Thomas has played in the last four games. My guess is, unless Thomas gets hurt in practice tomorrow, he will be the starter Friday at Fenway Park when the B's host the Flyers in the 2010 Winter Classic.
The Bruins fast start was ignited by their heralded fourth line of Vlad Sobotka, Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz. Bitz was camped in front of Pavelec and deflected a shot high, over the shoulder of the Atlanta netminder.
German Olympian, Marco Sturm, scored the Bruins second goal of the night during one of the Bruins assertive power plays. Marc Savard rang a shot off the post and the rebound hit a body near the crease. Sturm was the first to find the puck and chipped it into the empty net.
Steve Begin's deflection at the top of the crease signalled the end of the night for Pavelec. The goal was reviewed to be sure he didn't intentionally kick it in. Begin scored for the first time in almost thirty games and he was pretty happy about it after the game, “It is about time. It feels good too. It was an ugly one, but it doesn’t say that at the end of the season. The puck just hit me and it went in and I almost got a second one on that PK. I got surprised that he put it on my stick, but what we have to remember about tonight is that we played a sixty-minute game. Everybody was going [hard], four lines, three D’s and the goalie, and that was a great game from us and we need to carry this into the next game. More than that, it was a great win and it was all good tonight.”
Hedberg's presence setteled things down for the Thrashers and then the game really slowed down. The Bruins had several power plays, controlling the action for most of the second period and when Patrice Bergeron scored with five minutes left, the Bruins took a 4-0 lead into the dressing room.
Rask held on for his second shutout of the season and third of his career. He kept Edmonton scoreless back on Halloween. Tonight, the Bruins kept Atlanta out on the perimeter for most of the night. He never really was tested until the final 90 seconds when he went post to post to make a shutout saving save. The Bruins played one of their best all around games tonight keeping the Thrashers to a season low 18 shots on goal. When asked if it was an “easy” shutout if there is such a thing in the NHL, “I mean I always think I can shut everybody down. That’s how you got to approach the game. If you think you’re going to let in two or three it’s not the way to do it. I mean every game you try to get the shtutout and tonight I did, but again I think it wasn’t about my effort. It was about the whole team effort.”
The Bruins currently have four Olympians so far…Patrice Bergeron was named to Canada's stacked Olympic team today. Congrats also go to David Krejci (Czech Republic), Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) and Marco Sturm (Germany) as they were also named to their respected Olympic teams. The United States is naming their Olympic hockey team during the Bruins/Flyers game on New Year's Day so I would expect Thomas to be named to the team and get a rousing ovation from the “Fenway Faithful”
I made it a point to spend some time with Daniel Paille, Michael Ryder and Steve Begin tonight as they have already played in an outdoor NHL game. All three had similar feelings about the event. They all enjoyed the buildup but once it came time to play, it was just another game. As a reminder, the night the Heritage Classic was played, it was brutally cold in Edmonton and the first Winter Classic had the picturesque snowfall during the game. With this thought in mind, I asked the guys what is worse for their bodies – playing in sub zero temps or having to sit on the bench as the ice was cleared of snow? For the ex-Canadien players, the cold was not an issue as they had heaters on the bench and both guys said they had to turn one of them off because they were getting too hot. As far as Paille was concerned, the snow didn't bother him or his team but he did add he wouldn't want to play in that extreme cold. From what it sounds like, once the game starts up, the elements get blocked out for the sixty minutes.
Next up, the Philadelphia Flyers come to town on New Years Day for the long awaited outdoor event at Fenway Park.
Tonight's three stars -
3 – Marc Savard with a pair of assists. He now has a 5 game point streak with 1G and 7A in that time.
2 – Tuukka Rask with his third career shutout. Rarely tested, he stayed focused throughout. He credited the team with the shutout as it would have been easy with a four goal lead to “start thinking about Friday”
1 – Marco Sturm with three shots on goal, a couple hits and a power play goal
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Written by Jim Mulligan