BUFFALO – The Boston Bruins rookies erased a four-goal deficit before losing, 6-4, to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Prospects Challenge on Saturday.
For the second day in a row, the Bruins dug a hole and then rallied. Down by four in the second period, they got goals from Ryan Humphrey (2), Curtis Hall and Johnny Beecher and tied the game in the third period before the Penguins pulled away with two more scores.
Five of Pittsburgh’s six goals came on the power play.
Here are three quick hits from the game:
Poitras, Boston’s second round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, was slotted in as the third-line center when the line charts came out a couple of hours before the game.
But as puck drop approached, he was moved up to the first line between Georgii Merkulov and Fabian Lysell.
The idea, according to assistant general manager Evan Gold, was to get a look at Poitras with skilled players on his wings.
While Poitras’ line didn’t produce any points, they did create chances. Poitras, 18, a shifty center with a high hockey IQ, was around the puck all afternoon.
He set up Lysell for some good opportunities and nearly had a goal himself in the third period, but was robbed by Taylor Gauthier in the Pens’ net.
“It feels good to be playing on the first line with Merk and Fabs, great players,” he said.
“I thought we jelled pretty well, probably should have had a few goals. I know I missed a tap-in, but it’s going to come. I thought we played well. Those two guys are so skilled it creates a lot of space for me and kind of allows me to do my thing.”
He had 21-29-50 in 68 games with Guelph last year. He’ll return to the OHL this season.
“He sees a lot of plays. He makes a lot of plays. He’s got a little subtleness to his game. I like him and Lysell together, for sure. They made some nice plays, those two,” said Bruins coach Ryan Mougenel.
Beecher scored a goal for the second straight game, banging the puck home from in tight after Luke Toporowski’s blast hit the post. That knotted the game at four.
He lost 10-15 pounds over the summer and he believes it’s helped his game.
“It feels good. I think I’m getting up and down the ice much faster for the entire game. My legs aren’t as tired by the end of the third period. I think my speed and the consistency of being able to get up and down is huge for me, especially with speed being my biggest asset,” he said.
“I’m really comfortable at 215 (pounds). It’s plenty of weight for physicality. We’ll see how it is coming down the stretch for my first pro season, but as of right now I love where I’m at.”
Moungenel sees a difference from last spring.
“He can sustain a lot more than he could when we first got him in Providence at the end of the season,” he said.
“We were really banged up at the time and he was playing a ton of minutes, so it was not really a fair assessment. But now I can see the difference in him on the bench, he’s ready to go. He’s going to play minutes for us, important minutes on the PK.
“There’s things in his game that I like. I like that he’s finding ways to score. I’ve talked about that, too. He’s got to find different ways to score, it can’t just be with his feet all the time. Use his shot, tips, wraps.
“A little bit more Joe Pavelski-ish. If you can blend the two, where you have an IQ for the net, you have a plan, you have a template, I think he’s a guy that can manufacture offense that way.”
A last-minute invite to rookie camp after 2021 third-rounder Brett Harrison of Oshawa was injured, the undrafted Humphrey was all over the scoresheet with a pair of goals and 12 penalty minutes.
A native of Michigan who played for Victory Honda and Honeybaked while growing up, Humphrey skated for the U.S. in the U-17 Five Nations Tournament in 2019. He had 25-37-62 with 82 PIMs in 68 games with Hamilton of the OHL last season.
“I feel like I’m a hard-nosed, gritty guy with a touch of skill. I can bury my opportunities if I get them, but I’m willing to do whatever I can for the team and play my heart out for the guys,” he said.
Both of his goals were scored from close range, the first on a redirect of a shot by Jacob Wilson.
“Anywhere by the net, I feel comfy scoring from in tight,” he said.
With about 14 minutes left, Humphrey was assessed 12 minutes in penalties — a minor for slashing and a misconduct. Inexplicably, he was sent to the dressing room even though he should have been eligible to return for the final two minutes of the game.
“The faceoff before, I got high-sticked” in the mouth with no call, he said. In response, “I just went over with maybe a little hard chop on the guy’s laces. (The referee) said he didn’t want me starting anything and gave me the boot.”
Mougenel liked what he saw from Humphrey.
“I loved him and J.D. Greenway together. I thought they did a real good job. He’s a fiery guy. He’s from Detroit, kind of showed it tonight that he’s got some grit. He was on the short end of that call,” he said.
Undrafted the last time around, the 19-year-old winger is eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Johnny Beecher: “It was heaven on earth in my eyes, the University of Michigan. I cherish every second I spent there, but I’m excited for this new journey. To put the books down for a little bit is definitely great but hopefully I can get back eventually and try and finish up my degree (in sports management).”