Nick Goss

Bruins' improvement in this facet of the game is very encouraging

The Bruins shut the door on the Avalanche in the third period.

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The Boston Bruins beat a very good Colorado Avalanche team 5-2 at TD Garden on Thursday night in one of their best performances of the 2023-24 NHL season.

The Avalanche have a lot of high-end skill -- including a Hart Trophy candidate in center Nathan MacKinnon -- and even though they fell behind 2-0 and 3-1, the game wasn't truly over until late in the third period when David Pastrnak's second goal gave the B's a 4-2 lead with 2:36 remaining. He added an empty-net goal soon after to complete a hat trick and seal the victory, which improved the Bruins' record to an Eastern Conference-leading 27-8-9 (63 points).

There were plenty of positive signs for the Bruins in this win.

Jake DeBrusk posted his third multi-point game of the season and now has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his last 12 games. He appears to finally be hitting his stride offensively after some inconsistency earlier in the season. Boston's top players also outplayed Colorado's stars, which isn't easy to do considering the immense talent level on the Avs' roster.

But the most encouraging aspect of this win for the Bruins was how they finished it.

The B's held a 3-2 lead entering the third period. The Avalanche can score in bunches, but they faced stiff resistance in crunch time from the Bruins defense. The Avalanche tallied 28 shots on net through two periods, but they generated just four over the final 20 minutes. It was an impressive defensive display by Boston.

"Really good," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said in his postgame press conference when asked about his team's final 20 minutes. "One of the better periods we've had trying to protect a one-goal lead. We had poise coming out of our D-zone, we made strong plays, we had good wall plays that led to a couple odd-man rushes. And then how we hung on to pucks and were patient offensively, which got us a power play and other opportunities."

Holding third period leads has been an issue for the Bruins at times this season.

Back in December, they had an even goal differential in the third period through 30 games. They were plus-54 in the third period last season. But over the last 14 games, the B's have the second-best third period goal differential at plus-11. Their 20 goals scored in the third period during that span is the second-highest in the league.

They have a 5-1 goal differential in the third period over the last three games (all wins).

"We definitely like the way we played. Itโ€™s a good sign for us closing out games, especially against a good team, a team that can be deadly with a lot of good players," Bruins center Charlie Coyle told reporters postgame. "Thatโ€™s what we strive for. Playing with the lead, trying to extend it but also playing the right way. I thought we did a pretty good job closing things out."

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