The Boston Bruins dominated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first two games of their opening-round NHL playoff series.
When the series moved to Toronto for Game 3, it appeared the change of venue would not mean much since the Bruins had outscored Toronto 12-4 and basically did anything they wanted in the offensive zone.
However, in a short series, things can turn around quickly. The Maple Leafs responded well on their home ice and got plenty of support from their fans at the Air Canada Centre. However, more than the pleasant surroundings and the full-throated fans, the Maple Leafs were the faster and more opportunistic team, and they came away with a 4-2 victory.
Now they have a chance to even the series in Game 4, and if they can maintain their speed advantage and continue to connect on their precision passes, there is an excellent chance the series will be tied when the two teams get together for Game 5 in Boston Saturday night.
The Bruins are a multi-dimensional team that have the ability to play a stronger game on the defensive side of the ice. They also may have a better chance of getting the puck to bounce their way.
David Pastrnak, who scored a hat trick and six points in Boston's Game 2 victory, hit the post on a power play opportunity that would have tied the score in the third period.
He was also victimized by two point-blank saves by Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, who made a number of timely saves throughout the game.
Veteran Patrick Marleau scored two goals in the game, and he has a boatload of playoff experience from his years with the San Jose Sharks. Marleau has the ability to lead the Maple Leafs back into this series.
The Bruins will depend on Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand to lead the way in Game 4. If the Bruins can shore up a few defensive mistakes and take advantage of their offensive opportunities, they can take a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Bruins could be bolstered by the return of rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who missed Game 3 with a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2. Grzelcyk boasts top-end speed and puck-carrying skill.
"He's got the footspeed to be able to match that part of the game when they take off," said head coach Bruce Cassidy, per Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe. "Transition, just like they want to counter, we've been a pretty good transition team all year and can strike off turnovers or punted pucks if they're not structured. So he adds to that."
Thursday's Stanley Cup Playoff Schedule
Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN. Boston leads series 2-1.
Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m., USA. Columbus leads series 2-1.
Here's a link to the remainder of the schedule for the rest of the first round.
The second round will get underway April 26 or 27, as the final first-round games are scheduled to be played April 25. If none of the first-round series go to seven games, the second round could start earlier.
The conference final round will start in mid-May, while the Stanley Cup final will likely get underway at the end of the month and extend into June.
Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets
The Capitals bounced back with a double-overtime victory on Tuesday night, and Washington has life after traveling to Columbus with a 0-2 deficit.
The first two games had also been decided in overtime, and Columbus won both of them. The Blue Jackets are attempting to win a playoff series for the first time in team history, while the Capitals are hoping to advance to the second round.
That has been a regular occurrence in Washington, but the team has not advanced past that round at any point during Alex Ovechkin's tenure with the Capitals.
Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said his team is prepared to go to overtime at any point if it would add to its win total.
"We're fine with it," Foligno said, per Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (subscription). "I mean, sure you'd rather win it before that, but there's no panic in here from these guys at this point.
"Guys are pretty calm. We know what we have to do. Everybody's been upbeat and positive, let's just play. By now we should all be used to it, right?"
The Capitals seemed lost in overtime in the first two games of the series, but Lars Eller flipped the script in Game 3.
A shot by Washington's Brett Connolly went off Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski and then off Eller's toe for the game-winner.
"It was a real ugly OT-winner goal," Eller said, per Roman Stubbs of the Washington Post. "I had a feeling it was going be one of those. It doesn't make the win less sweet."
Washington will try to square the series Thursday night in Columbus.