Jordan Caron was at least twice a living example of patience paying off in his return to the Boston Bruins lineup Thursday night. Although, depending on one’s definition, he may have reaped the rewards of serenity and staying power in three departments.
First, after missing the previous 11 games due to his rank in Boston’s meritocracy and taking seven straight conditioning twirls in Providence, Caron was reinserted as part of his rotation with Zach Hamill in the absence of the suspended Brad Marchand. Playing alongside the seasoned Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, he consumed a respectable 12:24 worth of ice time.
In what turned out to be a so-so performance for the individual and especially the team, Caron was a critical difference-maker as part of a 2-1 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens.
On top of his return to the parent club’s depth chart and the NHL scoresheet, as the game progressed, Caron would draw two of the night’s seven overall power plays.
On his first of 17 shifts, Caron shrewdly tracked teammate Johnny Boychuk’s dump-in along the near alley of the Montreal zone. As the biscuit fluttered behind the goal line, he paced himself in swooping from the right side to the front porch of the vacated Canadiens cage, rather than dart deeper to engage goaltender Carey Price.
As it happened, Price didn’t need an opposing, confrontational forechecker to beat him on the play. With the help of the boards, the puck eluded him altogether and Superballed its way to Caron, who fielded it for a facile burial and a 1-0 lead at 1:23 of the first period.
It was the only way any of the Bruins could have assuredly punished Price for his judgment error. Although Peverley was immediately trailing Caron on the rush, the two Bruins were separated by Canadiens blueliner Josh Gorges.
Accordingly, if Caron had opted to corner the Habs goalie, the kinetic puck likely would have fallen onto Gorges’ blade and set up a spontaneous Montreal breakout. Peverley might have been able to strip Gorges, but that struggle could have bought Price some invaluable split-seconds to return to his crease.
Instead, the up-and-down second-year pro, who now has all of 37 NHL and 59 AHL games under his belt, projected the puck’s path with almost uncanny precision. And his supreme shrewdness over Price gave the Bruins a decisive upper hand that proved tougher to uphold than the matchup should have been.
After Caron tallied on the first registered shot at either end, the Canadiens owned the remainder of the first period shooting gallery, 16-11. They would finish the evening with a slight 34-30 edge in that category as well as a 31-29 advantage in hits and a 26-22 triumph at the faceoff dot.
Perhaps most unsettling for Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien was that, where the Habs went 1-for-2 on the power play and sawed a 2-0 deficit in half on that conversion, Boston whiffed on all five of its advantages.
In fact, the Bruins mustered only four shots in 8:38 of five-on-four time while authorizing three shorthanded shots by the Canadiens.
Had they been more opportunistic with their special teams, they could have effectively rewarded more of Caron’s efforts. The young winger who tallied the game’s first goal also happened to draw the first penalty when Montreal’s Lars Eller hooked him with 2:19 to spare in the opening frame.
Two stanzas later, after he had also blocked an Eller shot, taken two hits, given one puck away and checked Canadiens defenseman PK Subban, Caron drew the penultimate penalty of the game.
Barely two minutes after Yannick Weber finally put Montreal on the board, Caron put them back in the box when Petteri Nokelainen gripped his stick, effectively inviting Boston to renew its two-goal edge with 5:13 remaining.
Despite having that power play, and later another at their disposal, the Bruins would take one five-on-four stab at Price while Tim Thomas had to repel a pair of shorthanded bids within the final five minutes.
Fittingly enough, the lone Boston shot, a deflection off the twig of Gregory Campbell with 3:18 remaining, coincided with Caron’s final shift for the evening.