Jarome Iginla, the 36-year-old elder statesman of the Boston Bruins' strike force, made like a father returning home from a protracted absence late in Sunday night’s first period. His linemates and teammates acted accordingly to halt a slump before it could gain substantial traction.
With his club facing a 1-0 deficit, Iginla cut directly to the porch of the host New York Rangers’ net. There, he got back to filling the twine with biscuits by ushering center David Krejci’s pass behind goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The connection drew a 1-1 knot with 1:53 to spare in a first period that should have yielded a multigoal advantage for the Blueshirts. The hosts had run up a 20-9 advantage in the shooting gallery by the first intermission.
Another 41 minutes and 53 seconds passed before Boston stamped a 6-3 victory with contributions from 10 different point-getters. One might say they won the game two periods to one and that Iginla and company took charge to enact the long-awaited U-turn.
Iginla, Krejci and Milan Lucic (who also characteristically led the team with five hits) joined three other Bruins in Sunday’s multipoint club with two apiece. The top troika was on the ice for the 1-1 equalizer, the 2-1 go-ahead strike and the final dose of insurance with 1:36 left in regulation.
They also established an uninterrupted flow on Rangers property in the ninth minute of the middle frame. With no whistles in between, they gave way to Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg, who collaborated to augment the lead to 3-1 at the 9:34 mark.
No points or plus/minus credit for them to gain on that last play. Just a testament to how they can and should incite the other lines to give the Bruins the most out of a deep, relatively balanced strike force.
Those recorded and unquantifiable contributions produced a copious supply of ice shavings to pile on top of a preceding dry spell. Then again, the Olympic break in the team’s schedule may have magnified the look of that hex. (Iginla’s goal drought was only two games entering Sunday, but it had been 22 days since he last beat an NHL netminder.)
Come what may, Boston claimed one out of four potential points to commence the homestretch coming out of the Olympics. Krejci and his wingers personified that sluggish start with minus-four ratings apiece and a few power-play points functioning as little more than napkins covering an abrasion.
Sunday night’s mid-game turnaround marked a much more effective compression and closure of the wound. The convincing victory neutralized the vinegar from an iffy opening frame and demonstrated everything the Bruins will need from their go-to scoring line in the defining phases of the NHL season.
While they need not expect a score of duplicate performances, the Iginla-Krejci-Lucic unit should make Sunday’s perk-up a turning point into the homestretch of the 2013-14 season. If they replace those ice chips faster than they melt, then the first two post-Olympic outings will shrivel in significance.
After the blunder in Buffalo, Joe Haggerty of csnne.com wrote that the starting strikers “…didn’t create anything offensively during five-on-five play” and that “It certainly looked like there was rust with that line and plenty of inconsistency to go around as with the rest of the Bruins roster.”
Three days later, the New England Hockey Journal’s Jesse Connolly opined in his Bruins-Caps recap, “Pretty invisible night for the top line of David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic. They, like many of their fellow B's, missed the net far too often when they had a chance to put pucks on Holtby.”
Conversely, Sunday’s game produced a reminder of how these three forwards have come to constitute Boston’s top three scorers. Productivity from Gregory Campbell and Eriksson, to name two, confirmed that other Bruins can and will buckle down when the first line does.
When results like Sunday’s surface, the Bruins verify that they are following their topmost template for achievement in 2013-14. With Iginla, they have a Stanley Cup-starved veteran of 16-plus seasons with plenty to offer in the way of sheer output and infectious hunger to spread amongst the dressing room.
For the majority of the first three quarters of the regular season, the Iginla-induced incentive has translated to irreproachable consistency atop the depth chart. All three forwards in question have had a maximum of two scoreless skids ranging between three and six games at a time.
Both the veteran Iginla and his fellow hulking winger, Lucic, ought to benefit from their recent two-and-a-half week respite. Krejci, a Czech Olympian, had a full week between extramural engagements after the United States eliminated his club from the quarterfinals.
If one wants to indict rust over the first two post-Olympic contests, as Haggerty did, all that matters is that the top troika retains its rhythm from Sunday night onward. Iginla, Krejci and Lucic should be at a point where they are poised to expend a full tank through a stretch of 21 games in 41 days.
A multipoint effort from one member of the line or more will generally mean maxing out a single night’s worth of expectations. The least they can do to supplement those occasional, inevitable pointless outings is execute more shifts like the one that precipitated Soderberg’s goal on Sunday. The latter would take little more than imposing their will through routine physicality and fluid puck movement.
With or without a trading deadline deal, the Bruins will need to support a depleted defense with consistent offense. That starts with their three co-pilots producing in accordance with their capabilities and Iginla, in particular, conveying his competitive zeal through his actions.
That is, after all, why he was a logical choice to supplant Nathan Horton over the past summer.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.
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