Members of the Boston Bruins celebrate an empty-net goal against the New York Rangers Saturday at TD Garden. The Bruins won the Eastern Conference semifinal series in five games. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
It took 11 Rangers playoff games and almost 24 more minutes, but Torey Krug finally launched a shot that Henrik Lundqvist saw and still couldn't stop.
By Jay Greenberg, special to CBC Sports
BOSTON -- It took 11 Rangers playoff games and almost 24 more minutes, but Torey Krug finally launched a shot that Henrik Lundqvist saw and still couldn't stop.
The kid cranked a gorgeous one-timer off a feed by Tyler Seguin to the top glove-side shelf that cornered the Rangers, a team with proven survival instincts and maybe the best goalie in the game. That wasn't even close to being enough to compete with a Boston club that can bring it to a level a clear notch higher than a Ranger club that wins largely by not bringing a lot of grief upon itself.
Let the record show that it was a chintzy hooking call that sent Mats Zuccarello to the penalty box with the Rangers leading 1-0 early in the second period, enabling Krug to hit the bullseye. Despite two later penalties taken by Derek Dorsett, to their bitter end, the Rangers didn't beat themselves. They just simply didn't match up.
It almost always comes down to the depth. Krug, one of three rookies replacing three injured Bruin veteran defencemen as the series began, cranked a howitzer for his fourth goal in only five career NHL playoff games.
This happened just 10 minutes before 39-year-old Roman Hamrlik, playing because the Rangers were missing two good defencemen of their own -- Marc Staal and Anton Stralman -- gave away the puck, not once, but twice, to Daniel Paille, leading to the go-ahead score in Boston's 3-1 series clinching win.
Gregory Campbell netted that goal, the Bruins' second winner in three games by their fourth line, not only because Hamrlik make two incredibly soft plays, but also because the Rangers' fourth line of minor-league players was clueless as the Bruins moved in. Kris Newbury chased to the boards, leaving Campbell alone, and Micheal Haley was late as the Boston centre went to the net to convert Shawn Thornton's broken down pass.
The Rangers had one good chance after that -- Ryan Callahan's when he caught Johnny Boychuk flat-footed and took Carl Hagelin's breakaway feed only to be stopped on a backhander by Tuukka Rask's blocker. The Bruins took their game to a place the Rangers couldn't go.
"The first period was great and then we kind of lost ourselves a little after their power-play goal," said Lundqvist, just as brilliant as he had been through two rounds right up until Campbell hit the empty net. "They just took over the game.
"Congratulations to Boston. They did so many things really well. When they got it going in almost every game we had a tough time matching it. The last two games we gave ourselves a chance but it took us a while to get there. They played physical, made it really tough for our D. They only really gave us something in [Game 4]."
Bruins set to face high-flying Penguins
No question about it, the strongest two teams in the East will play for the conference's berth in the Stanley Cup final. While the Penguins have the two best players -- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- like they do in every series, we'll see how they contend with four lines of Bruins relentlessly coming to the net. Until the nick of time, they didn't have that against Toronto. But the 2011 Stanley Cup champions have it now.
"When I roll four lines, it's because I know I have the depth to roll four lines," said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
With Brad Richards aging five years during a four-month lockout -- and finally being scratched for the final two games -- and trade deadline acquisition Ryane Clowe becoming lost for good during the Washington series, the Rangers had two-and-a-half lines at best.
"A big part of my job is to get our top players to play consistently and I didn't do that," said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who said injuries were no excuse before he began to list them.
"We don't have our [Milan]Lucic in Clowe," said the coach. "We don't have our [Zdeno] Chara in Staal."
And then after Derek Stepan took two sticks in the face in two shifts between repairs in the locker room during the first period, the Rangers had only a shell of their No. 1 centre with which to hold off elimination. Derick Brassard, the team's leading scorer in the playoffs, disappeared Saturday while Rick Nash, who made just one play in the series -- to win Game 4 in overtime -- was badly outplayed in the finale by the Bruins' own big gun left wing, Lucic.
"He is like a train when he gets going," said Julien.
Six hits and two superior scoring chances by Lucic resulted as the wearing down process continued. Chara, who controlled Nash throughout, got his usual defence partner. Dennis Seidenberg, back for Game 5 as Dougie Hamilton was scratched. No way was Krug going to be the guy coming out.
"There was no doubt he was magic for us in this series," said Julien. Seemingly an undrafted 5-9 defenceman who spent the year in Providence was the rabbit the Bruins coach pulled out of his hat. But there is no hocus-pocus required when one team clearly has more players.
It was Tortorella who had to come up with the magic and couldn't.
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