BOSTON — Rookie defenseman Torey Krug, never considered a serious contender for a spot on the United States Olympic hockey team, wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get the call.
But Saturday, with Team USA director of player personnel Brian Burke watching from the press box, Krug put on an offensive show that might have made Burke and his associates wonder.
Krug set up a first-period goal with a nifty pass and scored two in the second to lead Boston to a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in the Bruins’ first game of the second half of the season.
Afterward, sporting a couple of battle scars above his upper lip sustained from “a stick to the face,” that caused him to miss the last several minutes, Krug said he “had no idea” Burke was at the game.
But when asked if it was cool that Burke was there, Krug smiled and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
Krug’s goals, his ninth and 10th but first in 12 games, tied him with Erik Karlsson of Ottawa and Shea Weber of Nashville for the league lead among defensemen.
It was his second two-goal game and the three points were a career high.
The two goals came after fellow defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, also passed over by Team USA, tied the game, 1-1, with Krug on the ice.
“That’s frustrating, but it’s all about putting it in the past and forgetting about it and making plays moving forward, and that’s what we did tonight,” Krug said.
Krug made his debut in last season’s playoffs, scoring four goals in five games against the New York Rangers in the first round, and is a plus-four in his first regular season.
There have been some tough games lately, but not on Saturday.
“He’s a great skater and he finds those lanes and he can shoot the puck,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 36 saves as the Bruins improved to 28-12-2 with their 10th win in their last 11 home games.
“He also got a minus on that first goal, so I’m sure he wanted to get that back and he got it back big-time. I think he’s been pretty solid. … I think for the most part he’s been a great threat offensively and defensively really good and improving all the time.”
Said coach Claude Julien, whose team heads to California for three tough games: “He handled himself well. He played well. When he’s on top of his game offensively, he makes things happen.”
Winger Daniel Paille scored his sixth goal of the season off Krug’s pass, and right winger Reilly Smith capped the scoring with his team-high 15th goal midway through the third period.
With Jordan Caron out because of a back injury, Julien, coaching his 500th game with Boston, placed new arrival Justin Florek on the left side of the line with veterans Paille and Gregory Campbell. That switched Paille from left wing to right.
The new unit was sharp from the start, with Paille missing an early tip-in before running into goalie Ondrej Pavelec for a penalty.
Krug then set up Paille for the first goal and Florek barely missed on a tip-in before Paille got the puck to Krug, who put the Bruins ahead 3:08 into the second period.
At 7:18 of the period, Krug took a pass from fellow defenseman Adam McQauid, moved in and scored again, his shot deflecting in off Winnipeg defenseman Jason Trouba.
Smith’s goal put the game on ice.
“They know how to win,” said Winnipeg right winger Chris Thorburn, who held his own in a first-period fight with giant Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara.
“They know how to do it in any kind of fashion, whether it’s skill or mucking it up, and we knew that coming in. So we just didn’t get to the front of the net. We didn’t disturb Rask enough.”
NOTES: The teams engaged in three fights, two of them only two seconds apart early. … Claude Julien became the third coach in Bruins’ history to coach 500 games with the team. Only Art Ross, who had four stints, had 728 games, and Milt Schmidt, who logged 726 in two stays, have coached more games with the team. … LW Justin Florek made his NHL debut for Boston after being summoned from Providence with LW Jordan Caron out because of a back injury. He got the call in the morning, drove the hour up from Providence and played well. … The Jets played the middle game of a three-game trip, which ends in Pittsburgh on Sunday. … The Bruins play five of their next six on the road and head to California for three, opening at Anaheim on Tuesday. … Winnipeg D Jacob Trouba came in leading NHL rookies in ice time, averaging 21:26 per game. He played 18:44 and didn’t have a great game. … The U.S. women’s team was welcomed during the second period.