With 10 different point-getters and nine different players finishing in the black under the plus/minus heading, the Boston Bruins thawed out in multiple areas to wrest away a 4-3 victory Monday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
With that decision, the first game in their series with the Washington Capitals to be decided in regulation, they have reclaimed the upper hand and home-ice advantage. They flexed some encouraging elasticity by way of deleting initial 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and spawning their own leads in the earliest and latest phases of the third period.
All but one of Boston’s skaters contributed to a soda-spitting tally of 58 hits. The unlikely odd man out, stay-at-home defenseman Greg Zanon, still made a tangible mark with an assist and one of the team’s 21 blocked shots.
And in the wake of head coach Claude Julien flip-flopping centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, at least two of the top-six forwards finally found the scoresheet. Rich Peverley inserted the visitors’ icebreaker while Bergeron amassed the primary assist on the deciding strike with only 1:53 to spare in regulation.
On a night that was closer to passable than perfect, two positive points stand out as opposed to one pimple on the Bruins’ postgame dispatch.
Not unlike the top six, the blue line was pointless on the series entering Monday night. But they shattered that trend with defensemen Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Zanon combining for a goal and five assists.
The Bruins’ ample contributions from their point patrollers was made possible chiefly by those defensemen utilizing time and space and thrusting the puck on a congested crease.
With 9:38 gone in the second period, Zanon tallied the primary assist on Daniel Paille’s equalizer by connecting with the fourth-line forward on a diagonal feed from the near point to the porch. Paille was within spitting distance of Braden Holtby, as he lassoed the biscuit and spooned it home to the goalie’s left.
Chara had the secondary helper when Brian Rolston extracted the puck from an even denser forest in front of Holtby and spawned Boston’s first lead of the night. And the towering captain gave the Bruins a permanent advantage when his slapper hopped off the stick of Capitals’ defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who was trying to fend off a screening Chris Kelly.
By swaying the majority of the bodies, red and white, in front of Washington’s young stopper, the Bruins swell their scoring odds. The fact that they tuned the mesh four times within 60 minutes Monday night after mustering merely two in 144-plus minutes over the first two games should be the opening and closing statement in that argument.
The Bruins outscored the Capitals 2-1, in both five-on-five and four-on-four play. Washington tallied the first power-play goal of the series via Alexander Semin while Boston went barren on four shots over five man-advantage segments.
More can and should be done to shore up the power-play brigade, but Boston is automatically at an advantage if and when it flaunts its knack for superior even-strength play. That has been a common knowledge fact since last season, and it resurfaced in Monday night’s triumph.
Milan Lucic led all participating skaters with eight body-checks on the night. Nothing seriously wrong with that, but Lucic’s intensity and aggression may have constituted too much of a good thing in Game 3.
After all, his hit total for the evening also matched his bushel of penalty minutes. And his Monday night infractions for roughing (three times) and unsportsmanlike conduct are his only entries to any scoresheet so far in this series.
Lucic needs to get back to being the two-in-one checker and striker that Bruins buffs have come to know him as.
If the Bruins are to claim the two remaining requisite victories to polish off the Caps―or, at least, if he is to play a positive role in that process―Lucic must channel more of his energy into the point column. He should be one of those forwards who limit Holtby’s vision of the Bruins’ point-based puckslingers while stealing attention from the Washington blueliners.