The Boston Bruins’ top trio rightfully has received the bulk of the praise this season, but it was another line that kept the Black and Gold in the thick of things Friday night.
Bruce Cassidy shuffled up his fourth line a bit for the matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as Noel Acciari returned to the lineup to center Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.
While the B’s ultimately fell 5-3 at PPG Paints Arena, it’s safe to say the head coach’s decision paid dividends.
Boston’s new-look fourth line fought hard to earn the visitor’s first goal of the game, as the troika ground away to keep the puck in Pittsburgh’s zone before Brandon Carlo buried his first goal of the season. The Black and Gold’s second tally featured a bit more finesse, as Wagner zipped a slap shot home to spark the Bruins’ rally.
Cassidy certainly liked what he saw from the fourth line, and he shed some light on his decision making after the game.
“It frees Sean up to do a little more forecheck and play below their goal line a little bit more with the puck and not have to worry about getting 180 feet if it gets turned over,” Cassidy said, as seen on NESN’s Bruins postgame coverage. “I like his closing ability in D-zone, I also like his puck protection when he’s on. Wagner’s been good at that. Noel, coming back into the lineup, I’ve always liked him as a center iceman, trust him to play there. So hey, focus on being the low guy in our end, doing a good job there, let your wingers work. So it worked out tonight, they were very good.”
It’s unlikely the Kuraly-Acciari-Wagner line will consistently stay intact moving forward, as Cassidy never has been shy to rework his lines, especially based on the opponent. But given their performance Friday night, the B’s head coach likely will be more confident to trot them out moving forward.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Bruins-Penguins game:
— Carlo snapped a 116-game goalless streak when he potted the Bruins’ first tally of the game in the second period.
— Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith recorded a career-high 48 saves on 51 shots.
— It’s safe to say Jaroslav Halak enjoys himself some home cooking. The veteran goaltender owns a 6-0 record at TD Garden this season with a 1.82 goals-against average and .945 save percent compared to a 3-5-2 record on the road with a 2.77 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
— Boston was doomed by a pair of players with local ties. Former Bruin Phil Kessel scored the Penguins’ second goal of the game, while Northeastern product Zach Aston-Reese notched two goals and an assist.
— The Bruins’ win streak was snapped at four.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports