BOSTON (CBS) – It’s hard enough to fit in on a new team without that team defending a Stanley Cup championship.
Now imagine trying to gain acceptance after you come over from that team’s hated archrival. Such is the life of Benoit Pouliot, who decided to sign with Boston as an unrestricted free agent last summer and has been trying to establish a Bruin-like identity ever since.
With the game-winning goal against New Jersey Tuesday night at the TD Garden, Pouliot took the next step in ridding himself of his Montreal Canadiens stains and becoming entrenched in the ways of the Bruins.
First, there was the way he scored the goal, as he crashed the net and cashed in a on a rebound of a Joe Corvo shot with just 3:01 remaining in the game – the Bruins’ sixth straight win. Sure, he didn’t get all of the puck, but he got enough of it, much to the pleasure of his teammates.
“Well you know, sometimes we talk before the game and a few guys had a good feeling about him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara about Pouliot after the 4-3 win. “He works hard and it’s nice to get him that goal. And he needs it and we all need him too, and hopefully that’s going to boost his confidence and he’s that kind of a player that we need him. And for sure, he showed tonight, he had some great scoring chances. Even before that I think he hit the side of the net on a low blocker shot and if he would get a better piece of it then I think he would score right there. But it doesn’t matter how he scores, that’s how it comes.”
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The goal capped a solid all-around night for Pouliot, who spent most of the evening on the wing on a line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. He also filled in next to Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron during the six minutes of the second period that Brad Marchand was benched. Throughout his 8:26 of ice time, Pouliot made the most of it with scoring chances around the net, screens, two blocked shots and two hits.
When he finally lit the lamp for just the second time this season, his teammates on the ice skated toward him to celebrate with looks on their faces as though they were as relieved as he was. Maybe Pouliot is finally becoming a true Bruin.
“Oh yeah it was a team thing. It feels good obviously scoring a goal. The game-winner or not it just feels good,” he said. “It helps mentally a lot. You feel good after this. Right now I feel great. We got a tough schedule coming up and it’s just a thing of keeping that going and keeping consistent.”
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Pouliot has been scratched four times through 16 games this season, including twice for illness. When Peverley returned to action Saturday night, Bruins head coach Claude Julien opted to stick with the less-experience Zach Hamill in the lineup and send Pouliot to the press box. Julien said after the New Jersey game that he explained to Pouliot what he wanted to see when the forward got another chance. Pouliot responded in kind.
“It’s tough obviously but I tried to stay mostly positive,” he said. “Not changing anything I’m doing right now. I think on and off the ice I’m just trying to work hard as much as I can and it’s going to pay off in the long run. And tonight got a little bit more shifts out there and the whole thing went great.”
It also went a long way toward converting Pouliot from an ex-Hab to a beloved Bruin.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.