With Zdeno Chara scheduled to miss the next two games for the Boston Bruins as he carries the flag for Slovakia at the Winter Olympics, someone on the B's will have to step up to fill the void. On Tuesday night, Johnny Boychuk showed he's capable of that task.
Boychuk had an assist and set the tone with some bruising hits against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, as the Bruins improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games with a 3-1 victory. Tuukka Rask got the win for the B's, stopping 27 of Vancouver's 28 shots on goal. Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, and Daniel Paille scored for the Bruins, with Lucic and Iginla also notching assists on the night.
After a sloppy first five minutes of play, the Bruins struck first thanks to the David Krejci-Milan Lucic-Jarome Iginla line. Lucic cleared the puck out of the Boston end, finding Iginla with a nifty short backhand pass. Iginla broke into open ice, with Krejci to his right and Lucic trailing him, making it a 3-on-2 opportunity for the B's. Iginla charged his way into the Vancouver end, passing the puck to Krejci and continuing to press forward. Krejci found an open Lucic for a rising shot that beat Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo stick side to make it 1-0. Iginla picked up his 600th career assist on the play, adding to his surefire first ballot Hall of Fame credentials.
After the goal, the Boston crowd began to serenade the Canucks' goalie with chants of "Luongo! Luongo!", reminiscent of the chorus during the two teams' Stanley Cup Finals meeting in 2011.
The Bruins went on the power play with 7:03 gone in the second period, and turned a potential disaster into another opportunity for the fans to show their "appreciation" for Luongo. Torey Krug and Milan Lucic accidentally collided at the Boston blue line, allowing Daniel Sedin to gain the puck and have a clear breakaway on Tuukka Rask. Rask made the leg save on Sedin's wrist shot, which sprung the Bruins to a scoring chance led by Zdeno Chara. Chara worked his way into the Vancouver end, exploiting a seam in the defense due to the sudden offensive opportunity by Sedin. Lucic went to the front of the net, attracting defensive attention, which allowed Iginla to be open directly behind him. Chara sent a pass to Iginla, who redirected it past Luongo for his 16th goal of the season. It is the 294th game in Iginla's career that he has notched multiple points.
The Bruins went on the attack immediately after the Iginla goal, putting solid chances on net against Luongo for the next couple of shifts. The Canucks regained their composure after calling timeout and cut the lead in half with 8:32 left in the second period. Zack Kassian's initial shot was saved by Rask, but the rebound came back around to Raphael Diaz, who beat Rask with a slap shot for his first goal of the year.
The Bruins looked like they had made it 3-1 just two minutes later, however the goal was waived off by video review. After Reilly Smith's initial shot on goal, Smith took the puck around the net while Torey Krug accidentally fell into Luongo. Smith found Brad Marchand for an open shot into the Vancouver net, but the goal was overturned due to Krug interfering with Luongo, causing him to not have an opportunity to make a play on the puck.
Boston made sure its next goal counted. After a strong shift by the Canucks, putting lots of pressure on Rask and the Bruins' defense, Johnny Boychuk was able to clear the puck out of the zone and onto the stick of Daniel Paille for a breakaway chance. Paille was able to beat Luongo with a backhand through the five-hole to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead with just under three minutes left in the second period.
Along with the assist on the last goal of the night, Boychuk had a couple of huge hits on Canucks' forward David Booth which ignited the crowd. He ended the second with a big check on Booth in the Vancouver end, and then stopped Booth from entering the Bruins' end in the third with a rattling hit into the boards. Boychuk ended with an assist, a +1 plus/minus, and 3 hits in 24 minutes of ice time.
The Bruins travel to St. Louis to face the Blues on Thursday night in a showdown of two of the best teams in the NHL.