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Smith’s hat trick catapults Bruins over Golden Knights in Vegas, 5-2

Craig Smith notched his third career hat trick en route to a, 5-2, victory for the Boston Bruins over the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Jeremy Swayman (14-7-3, 1.95 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 25 games played) made 34 saves on 36 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Vegas goaltender, Robin Lehner (20-14-1, 2.85 goals-against average, .907 save percentage in 36 games played), stopped 31 out of 35 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 33-18-4 (70 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the first wild card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights fell to 30-21-4 (64 points) overall and dropped to 4th in the Pacific Division and in command of the second wild card in the Western Conference.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup from Tuesday night’s, 4-3, loss on the road to the Anaheim Ducks, leaving Anton Blidh and Jack Ahcan as healthy scratches while the Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Urho Vaakanainen (undisclosed) and Curtis Lazar (upper body).

Zach Whitecloud slashed Jake DeBrusk and presented Boston with the night’s first power play at 6:40 of the first period, but the Bruins were unsuccessful in converting on the ensuing skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, however, the B’s struck first as Trent Frederic entered the zone and dropped a pass back to Smith (7) for the catch and release goal to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead.

Frederic (4) and Derek Forbort (6) tallied the assists on Smith’s first goal of the game at 13:18 of the first period.

Heading into the first intermission, the Golden Knights led in shots on goal, 12-10, while Boston led in faceoff win percentage, 53-47.

Vegas had yet to see any action on the skater advantage entering the middle frame, while the Bruins were 0/1 in special teams play.

Erik Haula tripped up Keegan Kolesar to present the Golden Knights with their first chance on the power play at 2:32 of the second period, but the skater advantage went by the wayside as Boston’s penalty kill managed to kill off Haula’s minor infraction.

Midway through the period, Smith (8) connected on a pass from Charlie Coyle through the slot for his second goal of the game to extend Boston’s lead to two-goals.

Coyle (15) and Frederic (5) notched the assists as the Bruins pulled ahead, 2-0, at 11:03 of the second period.

Late in the period an errant puck that was almost an indirect pass off the boards led Jack Eichel (2) through the neutral zone and on a breakaway whereby he slipped the puck through Swayman’s five-hole on a pump fake– letting the puck glide off his stick blade and over the goal line without putting much effort into a shot.

Eichel’s goal cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, on an unassisted effort at 17:24 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 26-25– courtesy of a, 16-13, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Vegas held the advantage in faceoff win%, 51-49, while both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Tomáš Nosek tripped Brett Howden at 1:59 of the third period, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Nearly midway into the final frame, David Pastrnak (30) riffled a shot with eyes through Lehner as the rubber biscuit just trickled over the goal line to give Boston a, 3-1, lead at 8:14 of the third period.

Frederic (6) completed a three-point night as a result with the primary assist on the goal, while Haula (16) notched the secondary assist.

The two teams traded goals late in the period as Smith (9) completed his first hat trick since May 1, 2021, against the Buffalo Sabres (a, 6-2, win in Boston) as the Bruins worked the puck around the horn in the attacking zone before Whitecloud bumped into his own goaltender– rendering Lehner with an attempt to draw a call, feigning interference, with his back turned as Smith buried the loose puck.

Matt Grzelcyk (17) and Brandon Carlo (6) had the assists on Smith’s third goal of the game as Boston took a, 4-1, lead at 14:39 of the third period.

Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer, pulled Lehner for an extra attacker with 4:52 remaining on the clock and about a couple minutes later, Vegas cut the deficit from three goals to two.

Jonathan Marchessault (22) let go of a blast from the circle with net front traffic screening Swayman as the puck hit the back of the twine.

Alex Pietrangelo (22) had the only assist on the goal as the Golden Knights trailed, 4-2, at 16:38.

Less than two minutes later, Pastrnak (31) waltzed into the attacking zone to put the icing on the cake with an empty net goal– giving Boston a three-goal lead once more, 5-2, at 18:20.

Haula (17) had the only assist as Pastrnak finished the night with a pair of goals– tying Bobby Orr in the process for the seventh-most seasons with at least 30 goals in a Boston uniform.

Both Orr and Pastrnak have had five seasons with at least 30 goals, trailing Rick Middleton (eight), Phil Esposito (eight), Johnny Bucyk (seven), Patrice Bergeron (six), Cam Neely (six) and Peter McNab (six) in the process.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-2, and taken two more points on the road in the midst of their six-game road trip (4-1-0 in that span).

Both teams finished the night with 36 shots on goal each, despite Vegas leading Boston, 11-10, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Bruins left T-Mobile Arena leading in blocked shots (20-18) and hits (28-25), while the Golden Knights exited their own building with the advantage in giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (56-44).

Vegas went 0/2 and Boston went 0/1 on the power play on Thursday.

The B’s improved to 23-7-1 (13-3-1 on the road) when scoring first, 21-2-1 (12-1-1 on the road) when leading after one and 23-1-2 (15-0-2 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, fell to 7-11-2 (4-8-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-9-0 (3-4-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 4-13-2 (2-6-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins conclude their six-game road trip (4-1-0) Saturday night in Columbus before returning home next Monday to start a three-game homestand and host the Los Angeles Kings.

Chicago visits Boston next Thursday and the Arizona Coyotes make their trip to TD Garden next Saturday before the B’s hit the road again.

By Nick Lanciani

Three years in live sports production (TV/radio), a degree in communication, a minor in sport management and yet I paint things in my spare time to distract myself from my unemployment. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and still apply to jobs for a living.