BOSTON - It was a case of the Nerds and the B's Thursday night in Boston.
The big, bad Bruins looked like the high school bullies while the Edmonton Oilers, who had the bad part down, spent most of the night trying to keep their heads above toilet water.
Boston took the body when it felt like it, scored when it felt like it and pretty much showed the Oilers — in the form of a 6-3 triumph — that they have a long way to go before they can include themselves among the league’s elite teams.
Boston’s ability to win puck battles and tease Edmonton out of its game plan had Tom Renney rolling his eyes and scratching his head.
“If you’re not going to get pucks deep, if you’re not going to attack with numbers, you’re giving a good team, the Stanley Cup champions an opportunity to counter-attack and have some fun, and they did that,” said the Oilers coach, whose club bailed out on their break-the-trap game plan.
“We didn’t want to stay with it. That’s an immature look, an immature team, and it’s not just young players doing that, we have veteran players turning pucks over.”
This one had beat-down written all over it in the first period. The Bruins had all the zone time, applied all the pressure, won all the battles and had a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
But the Oilers showed more composure and resilience than most would have given them credit for, calmly closing Boston’s lead to 2-1 on Ryan Smyth’s deflection and tying it 29 seconds later on a wrister from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“It was good character after the coach called a time out and we tied it up 2-2, but for whatever reason they get two quick ones and put us back on our heels,” said Smyth, once again Edmonton’s best skater.
“Then we took some penalties and put ourselves even more on our heels, and when that happens against a team like Boston ... it’s 6-3.”
This was a bit of a back-to-earth game for Edmonton. In fact, the last three games of the trip — losing in Phoenix and dodging a bullet in Montreal — have been something of a sag.
“The defending Stanley Cup champions are a team you want to beat,” said Taylor Hall. “There’s parts of our game we definitely need to fix and we showed that (Thursday night).
“We knew they were going to lock up the neutral zone and wait for us to make mistakes and once we did they capitalized.”
The second period was a carbon copy of the first, except for the coming back part. Boston scored a pair of goals at 3:50 and 6:24 to go up 4-2 and this time the Oilers had no answer.
“Against a great team like Boston you can’t let that happen, especially not twice,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “Give them credit, they’re a great team, coming off a Cup win they have a lot of confidence. They’re the kind of team that waits for you to make a mistake and when you do they just pounce on it.”
Smyth closed it to 4-3 at 15:18 of the third, but Cam Barker’s penalty at 16:56 set up a Milan Lucic insurance marker. Brad Marchand piled on with the sixth goal moments later.
The Oilers are 2-2 on the trip as they head into Detroit Friday for their third road game in four nights.
LATE HITS: The Ryans, Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins, have 16 goals between them, the other 12 forwards have 12 goals combined.
“Everyone has to chip in offensively, no question,” said Smyth, who has nine. “But it’s not like they don’t want to. I think it’s just a matter of guys ... it happens, it goes in spurts.”