Brad Marchand can be at his best and worst all at once

Brad Marchand scored twice and Patrice Bergeron scored his 11th goal of the season as the Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins.

BOSTON — It’s always going to be a battle with Brad Marchand.

Opponents certainly know that. Any defenceman who has tried to strip Marchand of the puck or keep it away from him in the corner knows he’s a positively relentless force.

But even if Marchand plays for your team, once in a while you’ll be fighting to maintain sanity. You could hear it in the voice of Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien when he was talking about a redemptive two-goal performance from Marchand during a spirited 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Marchand’s status for the contest was up in the air because of a slew foot he put on Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. But when the NHL decided to fine the Bruins’ notorious agitator rather than suspend him for the fifth time in his career, Marchand did the other thing he’s become known for: find the back of the net.

“I think he needed to respond that way,” said Julien, who’s never disguised his frustration with Marchand’s more questionable actions. “I’m going to be honest with you, we’re lucky we didn’t lose him tonight. Obviously he played a big part in our win.”

It’s safe to assume Marchand wanted nothing more than to do just that after a day of uncertainty and monotony, answering many of the same questions he’s faced before about misdeeds on the ice.

“It was good to kind of just let it go and put it behind me,” he said.

The best and worst of Marchand has actually been on display all week. Say what you will about the bad side, there’s no denying the good half has never been better. On the same night he kicked out Kronwall’s feet (earning himself a $10,000 fine), Marchand also netted a pair, including the game-tying marker in the third.

On Thursday in Boston, with his team trailing 2-0 after one frame, Marchand pulled the Bruins even with two early-period goals in the second. The first came on a shorthanded breakaway, when Marchand found a crack of daylight under the left pad of Pens stopper Matt Murray. The second occurred when he — surprise, surprise — drove hard to the net and found a juicy rebound following a shot from linemate David Pastrnak.

All night long, No. 63 buzzed.

“He skated like he was $10,000 lighter,” joked teammate David Backes. “He was flying around, doing what he does best and creating offence, holding onto the puck. I thought he was really focused on playing the game the right way and playing it hard.”

He wasn’t the only one.

Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron between Marchand and Pastrnak has really come to life at a time when the club needs it most. On Tuesday, Pastrnak netted the overtime winner, halting a four-game losing skid for his team — which is in a life-and-death playoff battle— and snapping a 17-game goalless drought for himself. Against Pittsburgh Thursday, it was Bergeron who put Boston ahead 4-2 early in the third with a power-play marker. Bergeron and Marchand — who now has 21 goals and sits fifth in NHL scoring with 49 points in 52 outings — have shown chemistry for years.


Now, the 20-year-old Pastrnak is becoming an ideal complement.

“You take those two away, ‘Pas’ is going to get open and make you pay,” said Backes.

Beyond the lead trio, a number of other B’s did their best to send the team into the all-star break on a high. Colin Miller was a willing combatant during a second-period fight with Scott Wilson, while Backes was at his body-banging best and even traded hearty cross-checks with an unlikely partner in Pens right winger Phil Kessel.

Given Boston’s struggle to find victories at times this year, Backes thought the pushback after falling behind was critical.

“We had a decision to make in here after the first,” he said. “We were down 2-0. You either don’t show for the rest of the game and you get what you put in, or you make a push and bind together and play your hearts out.

“We chose the latter and you saw the result. That’s the choice we have to make more often.”

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