BUFFALO — Whether it was out of embarrassment, frustration or exhaustion — maybe it was all three — Jesse Gabrielle was red-faced after he muffed a glittering scoring opportunity in overtime against Pittsburgh on Friday.
But, to his credit, Gabrielle didn’t quit after the puck slipped off his stick as he closed in on the Penguins net. He shifted into defensive mode and raced back into the Boston end of the ice.
Seconds later, after the Bruins regained possession, Gabrielle again carried the puck into the Penguins zone, with linemate Joona Koppanen alongside. This time, Gabrielle ripped the puck past goalie Alex D’Orio for the winning goal.
“I was trying to go high, but it went low blocker,” a tired but beaming Gabrielle said after Boston’s 3-2 victory in the first game of the Prospects Challenge.
“I got a chance to redeem myself there,” said Gabrielle, a fourth-round draft pick in 2015 who notched 35 goals for Prince George of the WHL last season. “Luckily it went in the second time.”
The 20-year-old left winger has good speed and plays a feisty game. He had a joust with Pittsburgh’s Dylan Zink during the second period on Friday.
Gabrielle is likely ticketed for Providence in his first pro season, but you never know.
“I think I’m ready to make the jump this year. I’ve been putting in the work. Hopefully I get a chance to show them what I can do. They’re going to do what’s best for the hockey club. I’m going to trust the process and whatever’s best for the hockey team, I can accept,” he said.
Slow start, fast finish
Boston was outshot, 14-4, and trailed, 2-0, after the first period.
“There were some jitters and I think we were fancy. There were things that we as an organization don’t want to be,” said coach Jay Leach.
“The great thing about it from a coach’s perspective is it was a teaching point, so hopefully they understood that we’re a little bit more of a straight-line team, a team that wants to get pucks to the net, and I think you saw that in the second and third. It was kind of a night-and-day difference.
Jack Studnicka, a second-round pick in June, put the Bruins on the board with a power-play goal in the second period, assisted by Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon assisted.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson tied the game in the third period.
Leach on JFK
Leach’s take on Forsbacka Karlsson: “Smart player. I would have liked to see him shoot the puck more in the first period, but then in the third period you saw him shoot one and it ended up in the back of the net. Clearly, a smart, intellectual player. Makes nice reads. Supports the puck well on breakouts and that sort of thing. Defensively, he’s very responsible.”
Former Quinnipiac defenseman Connor Clifton, who signed an AHL contract with Providence last month, made an impression in his first game.
“I had a lot of fun. We have a good group of guys. We obviously started slow, got the jitters out. It was a good experience for Game 1,” he said.
After knocking a Penguins forward off the puck in the second period, Clifton fed a long pass to a teammate in center ice for an offensive chance.
“At Quinnipiac we were all about quick ups,” he said.
At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Clifton hits hard.
“I’ve been playing against bigger kids (my whole life). That doesn’t bother me much. I’m not going to turn away from a guy because he’s a little bigger or a lot bigger than me,” he said.
Good game for Johansson
Defenseman Emil Johansson, a seventh-rounder in 2014, had a good game, moving the puck smartly and defending well.
After averaging 20 minutes a night for Sweden’s Djurgardens last season, the 21-year-old finished the year with Providence.
“I didn’t think I played to my standard last season in Providence, but it was a good experience to come over and see how everything works. Now I can focus on this year and know what I have to improve. The smaller ice is a completely different game for me,” he said.
He said he tries to model his game after Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“He’s a solid player. Passes the puck fast, joins the rush, blocks shots. He’s maybe more a shutdown player than I am. I’m trying to join the rushes, too, because I’m a good skater,” Johansson said.
Up next: Buffalo
The Bruins will face the Sabres at 7 on Saturday night. After sitting out on Friday, Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jake Debrusk, Rob O’Gara and Sean Kuraly are expected to play on Saturday, according to Leach.