Boston and Providence are only around 50 miles apart, but the ride can range from 45 minutes to a couple hours, depending on the traffic.
That quick shot up I-95 made all the difference in the world for the Bruins on Thursday night, as Danton Heinen, called up earlier that morning, scored the first two goals of his NHL career to lift the Bruins to an exciting 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
“You don’t know how long you have up here,” said the rookie after the game. “You have to take it day-by-day and try to put your best foot forward everyday and work as hard as you can. That’s just what I’m trying to do.”
Heinen was on his “best foot” all night, frequently finding himself in position to make a good play, whether on offense or defense.
His positioning is what led to both Bruin goals. On the first goal, he drove to the net in a two-on-two with David Backes on the PK. No one on the Sharks picked him up, and when Martin Jones gave up a (Jack Edwards voice) JUICY REBOUND, Heinen was ready.
“It was pretty cool,” said Heinen about the goal. “Obviously, it’s something you dream of your whole life, and you kind of just go into shock for a bit there.”
“Both of his goals are that sort of play where he goes to the net, finding that little bit of space, and he’s got the finish and brought it out tonight,” said Backes of Heinen. “He made other plays tonight, tough plays at the lines...seems like he got called up and he wanted to make his mark and not be sent back down. That sort of effort is great.”
Heinen’s continued efforts paid off for the Bruins again in the second period, when he found himself in the right place at the right time to collect a Brandon Carlo shot.
It looked like a picture-perfect board play by Carlo, but he didn’t take credit for a great pass.
“[I was] trying to put it on net,” he said with a smile. “The shift before, I tried to shoot for the high tip and I heard [head coach Bruce Cassidy] calling from the bench ‘shoot it.’ So the next one, I was definitely shooting it.”
Heinen will get the headlines, but he was hardly the only player deserving of accolades.
The big man himself, Zdeno Chara, was immense all night, skating more than 26 minutes, including 4:53 on the penalty kill.
“I’m just doing my job,” said the captain. “That’s my job, to play, and to play as much as the coaching staff are putting me out there. Obviously I love playing, I love competing... for me it’s all about team.”
The other hero? Anton Khudobin, who made 36 saves in...well, in typical Dobby style.
“Very good, very good,” said Cassidy. “[He’s] always going to have a bit of energy, for lack of a better word, in there and movement than most, but I thought he was very composed and under control for his game.”
Khudobin was at his best late in the game, when a Carlo penalty gave the Sharks a power play with under three minutes left in the third; Jones was pulled for the extra skater, giving the Sharks a 6v4.
Khudobin stood tall, however, turning aside a handful of shots, including a great deflection that seemed to be destined to go five-hole, to get another win.
“We didn’t get unlucky bounces and all kinds of stuff, but at the same time, the guys did a hell of a job in front of me,” said Khudobin, who is now 3-0-1 on the year. “They were clearing the pucks, and they were blocking the shots. They stayed in the right position when the shot was going through.”
Clutch goals from a rookie. A scrambly, but solid, performance from the back-up. A vintage performance from Chara.
Just like they drew it up, eh?
- Frank Vatrano showed signs of coming around tonight. He had a bit of jump in his game, beating San Jose defensemen with his speed a few times and landing four shots on net. Right now, with Heinen’s good game, it looks like a battle between he and Beleskey to stay out of the press box. Games like this one will help him stay in the lineup.
- Tough night for Sean Kuraly, who took three minor penalties and found himself essentially stapled to the bench in the third period. “We just shortened the bench because as a young guy, I wasn’t sure he could fight his way out of it after a while,” said Cassidy. “Tonight was a tough one for him, but tomorrow’s a new day.” Kuraly’s response to this game will be important for him: will it be a confidence killer, or will he bounce back?
- Funny moment after the game: a beat-writer asked Cassidy about a play Charlie McAvoy made, calling it vintage and saying it looked like Brad Park. Cassidy lit up, saying he noticed the play too and though it looked like classic Park to Jean Ratelle. Cassidy is high on McAvoy, and the entire team seems like it thinks he’s ahead of schedule. Exciting times for Bruins fans in that regard.
The Bruins will be back in action Saturday night when they host the 8-1-1 Los Angeles Kings, who just pasted Montreal, 4-0.