(Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

It didn’t look like Jim Montgomery’s message got through on Tuesday night. After bag skating the Boston Bruins at Monday’s practice and voicing his displeasure about the team’s recent style of play to the media, all eyes were on the Bruins to right the ship in a pivotal matchup with the Florida Panthers on deck. So when Boston allowed an underwhelming goal just 27 seconds into action, Montgomery’s effort to light a flame appeared to have fallen short.

Then Boston’s leadership group grabbed the reigns, compiling five combined points to put a pesky Panthers team on their heels. It was the perfect spot for Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy to lead by example to push the Bruins in the right direction, and they delivered.

“Monty’s message is we have to come prepared to play in practice every single day, and we weren’t the other day,” Marchand told the media after the 4-3 win. “But the way we finished is the way that we played tonight. We played direct, we played hard, and competed all the way through.”

While only notching an assist in the win, Marchand had his name written all over Boston’s winning effort on Tuesday, including an effort on Pastrnak’s second-period goal that won’t appear on the score sheet. Marchand barreled his way into the zone, executing a tenacious forecheck to give the Bruins possession, directly leading to McAvoy’s feed to Pastrnak out front.

“His forecheck—he wasn’t going to be denied there,” Montgomery said after the game. “Created a turnover that led to the Pastrnak goal.”

Marchand has gone seven straight games without lighting the lamp, riding a stretch where he’s scored just once in 16 games. The captain’s ability to impact winning when he can’t find twine is essential for Boston’s success, especially when his team needs it the most. Tuesday night was one of those moments. After setting up Pastrnak’s tally, he took the puck the length of the ice, showcasing some signature deke moves before feathering a pass on the tape of Trent Frederic to tie the game late in the third period.

However, Marchand’s most influential play of the game happened well before his game-saving play that kept the Bruins alive. The 5’9″ Marchand dropped the mitts with 6’4″ Niko Mikkola, a daunting task for anyone, regardless of size. It’s the kind of fire the Bruins feed off in playoff-like atmospheres, and it appeared to rub off on his teammates. Even Hampus Lindholm entered the ring, sizing up Sam Bennett.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Marchand’s leadership efforts were just one leg of Boston’s three-headed trio who sport letters on their crest. Pastrnak–who reached the 100-point plateau for the second consecutive season–had a two-point night in one of his better all-around performances of the season. Pastrnak went to the dirty areas to set up his goal, winning a race to the net front to create a scoring opportunity.

“That’s the kind of effort you need,” Montgomery said. “Physically, and also the second and third effort to win races to the net and also make plays.”

Pastrnak then collected the game-winning helper on Pavel Zacha’s goal, throwing a puck to the crease that ended up on Zacha’s tape and into the back of the net. Pastrnak’s performance reminds those who criticize Boston’s top goal-scorer that he can be impactful all over the ice. In 22:50 of time on ice, Pastrnak was a +3 while recording four shots on goal.

McAvoy was right there with his fellow captains, notching a goal and an assist to fuel Boston’s road win. His first-period bomb was his first goal in 16 games, unleashing a powerful slapshot past Sergei Bobrovsky in the right circle. Pastrnak once again found himself in the trenches, delivering a thumping reverse hit on Matthew Tkachuk to keep possession moments before McAvoy’s missile.

In a game where the Bruins were under the spotlight to string together sixty minutes of hard-nosed Bruins hockey, the B’s battled back from three separate deficits to reclaim the top of the Atlantic division in a hostile, playoff-like atmosphere on the road. And that will to win started at the top.

“I just liked the way that our team kept competing,” Montgomery said. “We battled for each other, we were in every battle together. All five guys stuck together, and that’s what we need.”