One through four, the Bruins' lines were bringing more than each of the Rangers' lines. And the biggest gap of all was in the play of the fourth lines in Game 3 Tuesday night.
By Jay Greenberg, Special to CBC Sports
NEW YORK -- One through four, the Bruins lines were bringing more than each of the Rangers lines. And the biggest gap of all was in the play of the fourth lines.
After two periods of an unsolvable Henrik Lundqvist, the pressure of Greg Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton finally created the shot -- by Johnny Boychuk -- that the Rangers goalie couldn't see.
No matter that Kreider was soon opened up for stitches on a Tyler Seguin follow-through shot. The Rangers training staff brought the first-aid kit for Kreider a lot easier than their players were bringing the puck into the Boston end.
As Steve Eminger nailed Seguin, then Patrice Bergeron, with third-period high sticks that went unpunished, two periods after Ryan Callahan had sent Zdeno Chara for stitches, there was blood on the ice. But it was all incidental to the Ranger plan becoming a bloody mess.
"At times we struggled to get through, then when we got through we couldn't sustain our forecheck," said a subdued Tortorella. "As the game went on we were there less and less. "I going with a pretty short bench as far as who I thought was going. It's kind of a Catch-22 there. They kept rolling and their fourth line scored a couple goals."
Derrick Brassard, supposed to centre a scoring line with Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, but taking a shift with Taylor Pyatt and Derek Dorsett with less than four minutes to go in a 1-1 game, lost a defensive zone faceoff to Gregory Campbell before Paille circled the net to bank in Thornton's pop-up along the goal-line. With 3:31 to go, the goal won Game 3, 2-1 Tuesday night, but these two teams could have played three extra periods to the same inevitability.
Bruins the better teams
The better team in this series by a lot leads it by a lot, 3-0. If the boxscore argues Lundqvist was much better Tuesday than he had been in giving up five goals Sunday, the Ranger goalie again was only perfect in stopping all the ones on which he had a chance. In the first and second periods especially, Lundqvist was at the absolute best he has been through a faultless 10 playoff games. But he couldn't rally the Rangers and their dwindling resources.
Defenceman Anton Stralman failed to answer the bell for the third period, causing Marc Staal to be missed horribly for the first time in the playoffs, putting the Rangers fate too much in the hands of Steve Eminger, who is essentially a seven defenceman having to play as a fourth.
"[Stralman] has played so well for us, that's a big blow to us as far as our matches and our depth on D," said Tortorella, and that wasn't the coach's only problem.
Rick Nash, who had appeared to be coming on in Game 2, didn't have nearly as much to offer in Game 3. So it became an increasingly long search of Tortorella of his bench for energy and skill with which to counter the Bruins relentlessness. After saying in the morning that the best way to control the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr unit was to forecheck it, Tortorella used the checking line of Pyatt, Dorsett, and Brian Boyle, instead.
Early in the second period, Pyatt deflected in a point shot by Ryan McDonagh after Stepan beat Bergeron for a faceoff, giving Lundqvist a working margin thinner than the Rangers' bench. They do not matchup, not against a Bruin team that, after a bad regular season finish, saw the bright white light against Toronto late in Game 7 and lived to tell the story.
After a short season with a lot of long nights, particularly down the April stretch, Boston's confidence is surging as it begins to resemble the team, largely intact, that won the 2011 Stanley Cup.
"After the second period my message to our guys was that we're playing a good road game," said coach Claude Julien. "It was just a matter of getting that one goal and giving ourselves a chance.
"I thought from start to finish our guys played extremely well."
Jagr, leaning hard in the offensive zone, had his best game of the playoffs. So did Tyler Seguin, as the Bruins two biggest passengers of the post-season wanted to take turns at the wheel. Marchand refused to be baited by several Dorsett attempts to take the Bruin sparkplug to the penalty box. And Paille and Campbell kept coming for 11 hard minutes against the Rangers, whose fuel gauge crept closer to E.
"We have confidence in that line, we've said it a million times" said Julien. "Tonight was no exception, they are on for both goals.
"The first one is a good screen [by Thornton], again working hard. Dan Paille's speed puts defences on their heels and he keeps working hard. Thornton is a smart player, he gets pucks out, pokes it in the right place and throws it at the net. We utilize them because they're good, not because we have to."
Tortorella would kill right now to be able to say the same thing about his depth. He is almost out of options. Not coincidentally, his season almost is out of games.