Chris Kelly proving to be key contributor

BOSTON -- The Bruins made a significant transaction at the trade deadline last February when they acquired forward Rich Peverley from the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart.

Peverley was a major contributor as the Bruins finished the 2010-11 season as Stanley Cup champions. The Thrashers relocated in the offseason to Winnipeg and became the Jets, and as the Bruins hosted the new franchise Saturday night at TD Garden there was a lot of talk about that trade.

But before Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli completed that deal on Feb. 18, he made one a few days earlier that has proved to be just as important, and a reminder of it came in Boston's 4-2 victory over the Jets.

His name is Chris Kelly, and he's quickly becoming a household name around these parts. He showcased his abilities once again by scoring a pair of goals, including a short-handed tally to help the Bruins extend their point streak to 12 consecutive games en route to sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division.

The Bruins acquired Kelly from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 15 in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft, and he's been paying dividends from day one in Boston.

Kelly has been putting himself in the right places at the right times with his relentless style of play, and he's been rewarded for those efforts time and time again, including Saturday night.

"He's been extremely important," Peverley said. "He's a steady guy and he chips in offensively. We play pretty well together and we seem to have good chemistry on the penalty kill and 5-on-5. I really enjoy playing with him and we want to contribute offensively whenever we can."

With his two goals Saturday night, Kelly now has four goals and two assists for six points in his past five games, and nine points in his past eight. It was also his second two-goal game and sixth multipoint contest of the season. Overall, Kelly has nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 22 games, while posting a plus-15.

"Kelly continues to have a really good year for us," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He's one of those guys who flies under the radar most times and there are always bigger names that get mentioned ahead of him, but he's been probably one of our most consistent forwards this year. He continues to impress on the stat sheet and that's something not necessarily at the forefront of his pedigree, but at the same time he's one of those guys who is contributing so well for us and that's given our team a lot more depth when it comes to scoring."

Kelly's first goal, a short-handed tally at 7:28 of the second period, was a perfect example of getting to the right position to capitalize on a scoring chance. Peverley did all the grunt work on the play.

"I just tried to take it to the net," Peverley said. "I thought I had a chance to get it in, but it was just sitting there and it was a great job by Chris to drive to the net."

It was the team's second shorty of the season as Kelly provided the first one on Oct. 15 at Chicago in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Blackhawks.

"Short-handed goals are nice, but obviously your first job is to kill the penalty," Kelly said. "So when you can get a goal, it's a bonus."

It was his second goal that really proved to be the bonus.

On the game-winning goal, the Bruins' Benoit Pouliot made a tremendous cross-ice pass to Kelly, who blasted a one-timer past Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec at 16:26 of the second period to give Boston a 3-2 advantage.

Peverley's speed once again proved crucial as he gained control through the neutral zone and fed the puck to Pouliot, who quickly moved into the offensive zone along the half wall before making the pass to Kelly for the tally.

"It was a nice pass, a real heads-up play," Julien said. "Ben's capable of making those plays. That was a big play, obviously, on the winning goal, and a great play from his part."

Even before the Bruins' Brad Marchand contributed an empty-netter at 18:51 of the third period to give Boston a 4-2 advantage in the waning minutes, Kelly had an opportunity for the hat trick, but his shot sailed wide and he had to settle for a deuce.

"As soon as I shot it I knew it was wide," Kelly said with a smile. "I just pulled it a little too much and obviously you want those back, but by no means am I going to dwell on it."

When the Bruins acquired him they knew he would provide more on the defensive end of things, but when he's pumping in the goals and adding assists, it's a welcome addition to an already deep offense.

"We knew he would provide us with some [scoring], but to this point he's probably exceeded what we expected from him," Julien said. "We're fortunate to have him playing this well and scoring that much for us."

Of late Kelly has shed that role of defensive forward, finding the scoring touch more often than he's accustomed to. He'll take it because no one knows how long it will last.

"Obviously everybody wants to get more points. No one wants to be a defensive forward in the NHL, but it's a long season," Kelly said. "You're going to have your highs, you're going to have your lows and the main thing that I've learned over the years is to try to stay consistent and stay grounded."

Kelly has been doing that ever since he pulled on the Bruins sweater last February.

When the Bruins acquired him from the Senators, another important factor was that Boston would have him under control for this season. Kelly is earning $2 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent in July. If he continues to play this way, it's a safe bet he'll be around these parts for a long time.

Bruins fans may have walked into the Garden on Saturday night talking about the Peverley deal, but everyone left praising the addition of Kelly.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.