BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins are the type of hockey team that is at its best when a massive dark cloud hangs overhead.
In the midst of controversy, the Bruins win. When there's an important game against a viable opponent on the schedule, they're ready. When it's quiet around the team, then fans should worry.
On the heels of a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in a rematch of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday at TD Garden, along with the five-game suspension to Bruins forward Brad Marchand, Boston was no doubt feeling the pressure. It showed in the first 40 minutes against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
But somehow, the Bruins' ho-hum performance turned into a 5-3 victory with a scoring surge in the final period.
"It took us 40 minutes to put it behind us, but we found a way," said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, who converted on his first career penalty shot. "It's human nature, right? It's tough not to be wrapped up in those when games go that way and you feel like maybe things could have went the other way, as far as being frustrated, but we found a way and we won again so we'll take it."
Bruins coach Claude Julien noticed that his players were unusually quiet in the locker room prior to Tuesday's game. Because the coach sensed that, he talked about it during his pregame speech, but the Bruins still came out slow and sluggish in the first 40 minutes.
But Boston responded in the third period and scored three unanswered goals en route to victory. The Bruins' Nathan Horton scored his second goal of the night and needed only eight seconds into the third period to tie the game at 3-3. Teammates Tyler Seguin and Ben Pouliot contributed a goal each in the final period.
The Bruins haven't always had the ability to pull off a third-period turnaround during a midseason game like this one, but because of the veteran presence, the team's character and past experiences, Boston has learned what it needs to do in a situation like this.
"It was the way we needed to respond," Julien said. "We probably needed to respond that way in the first two periods and what we did in the third period was basically our game plan. I didn't feel we had it tonight. We weren't emotionally engaged as much as we normally are."
For the majority of the night, the play went back and forth. It was entertaining at times. It was pretty mundane, too. The Jets were winning the battles to the loose pucks and taking advantage of their opportunities, which led to a 3-2 Winnipeg lead after two periods.
Boston's offense finally woke up in the final 20 minutes.
"We were a good enough team and a smart enough team to at least come out in the third with some desperation, and some intent in our game to do the right things and find a way to win," Julien said. "I obviously liked our third period, a lot."
The Bruins entered Tuesday's game with a 2-8-1 record this season when trailing after the second period. However, Boston has drastically outscored its opponents in the third period and that continued against the Jets. The Bruins now hold a 60-23 goal advantage in the final 20 minutes of regulation this season.
"We've developed a killer instinct and the guys really want to finish strong," Julien said. "They don't want to give the other team an opportunity to get back into it when we do have the lead. We want to finish strong and, for the most part, our team is pretty committed to playing 60-minute games. Tonight was one of those rare games where two of the periods were up to our standards, but overall our guys have done a pretty good job of trying to put in a full-game effort."
In order to have that complete-game effort, the Bruins need all four lines working. That wasn't the case Tuesday night, but with Brad Marchand out of the lineup due to a five-game suspension, Boston's top line did the damage offensively.
"So far it's clicking," said the team's top centerman David Krejci, who won 11 of 13 faceoffs and added a pair of assists. "My line and me are trying to keep our feet moving. Every time we get a puck, we are crashing the net and making the most of our chances, and the puck has been going in the net for us. Hopefully we will keep doing the good things and scoring goals."
The Bruins' top line has been on an offensive tear of late.
Horton has six goals and three assists for nine points in his past nine games. Krejci is in the midst of a nine-game point streak with five goals and nine assists for 14 points. Milan Lucic, who had two assists against the Jets, now has nine points in his last eight games.
"We need that from them," said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who made 29 saves. "A game like this, we were kind of sluggish for two periods and not really playing our game. You want everybody going, but you don't get that every night. Tonight [the top line] really stepped up and after that everybody followed."
With the way the season has been going for the defending Stanley Cup champions, it seems inevitable that adversity and controversy will follow them like a lost puppy for the remainder of the 2011-2012 campaign -- and possibly beyond, since this roster is likely to remain intact for the foreseeable future.
The Bruins welcome those challenges.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.