Though the Boston Bruins have generated plenty of offense during their current surge, the club’s long-term success might depend on how well it plays defense.
Looking to build on their best defensive effort of the young season, the visiting Bruins can extend their point streak to six games Friday night against the Florida Panthers.
After totaling seven goals while opening with three consecutive losses, Boston (4-3-1) has 26 during a 4-0-1 stretch. However, it allowed an average of 4.14 goals prior to Tuesday’s 6-0 rout of Arizona.
Tuukka Rask stopped 24 shots and the Bruins killed three penalties en route to a second straight win and first at home.
"Our thinking is defense first. We take a lot of pride in our battles," captain Zdeno Chara said. ”Play it simple and play to our strength. Our goals are up from previous years. We’re still working on our goals-against improvements."
Though the Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons in 2014-15, they ranked eighth by allowing 2.45 goals per contest. They’re hoping Tuesday’s game is the start of a trend back toward that level of stinginess.
"Keeping the goals-against down is always the goal,” Rask, who prior to the win against the Coyotes had a 4.40 goals-against average, told the Bruins’ official website.
"So that’s a good building block for us, and we’re trying to keep doing this."
David Krejci, meanwhile, has seven goals and seven assists while recording a point in all eight contests. It’s Boston’s longest streak to start a season since Joe Juneau and Dmitri Kvartalnov each went 14 straight in 1992-93.
"It is what it is," Krejci said. "When you win, it’s good … Make sure that we keep this atmosphere for as long as we can."
Krejci managed one assist in two games last season against Florida (5-3-1), which took both home meetings with Boston. Rask had a 1.53 GAA in his first five starts at Florida before taking the brunt in a 4-2 loss April 9.
Boston’s Jimmy Hayes, who recorded three of his eight points Tuesday, set career highs with 19 goals and 16 assists for Florida last season. He returns Friday after being acquired in a July deal that sent Reilly Smith to the Panthers.
Third on the team with seven points, Smith has two goals with an assist while Florida has won two straight following an 0-2-1 stretch. He had one of the Panthers’ three power-play goals in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Colorado.
”It’s fun when you have a night like that and get three goals and move the puck like that,” said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team came in 3 for its last 23 with the man advantage.
Florida also killed all five penalties after its opponents went 7 for 23 (30.4 percent) with the extra skater in the previous five contests.
"(Special teams) are huge, it’s a big part of the game now," said forward Vincent Trocheck, who has three goals and two assists in the last three games. "It gets the momentum going."
Florida’s Aleksander Barkov will not need surgery to repair a broken right hand suffered at Chicago last Thursday, but will miss two to four weeks. He has three goals and three assists in seven games.