Bruins

Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

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Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

GOLD STAR: Torey Krug assisted on all three goals and finished off with a couple of strong games while stepping up in the absence of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Clearly all of the D-men stepped up knowing that their top pairing wasn’t going to be available against the Lightning, but it was Krug at the offensive end with his three assists that put him over 50 points for the second straight season. They were big plays too, whether it was finding David Pastrnak in the slot for the first goal or firing wide of the net on the second score that David Backes pumped into the net. The third goal was once again a PP shot from the outside circle that Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out and was eventually shot past him by Riley Nash. Pair that with a couple of hits and a blocked shot in 19:37 of ice time, and it was a full night for Krug.

BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov was not his MVP self in this one. Instead he managed just a single shot on net in his 18:43 of ice time, and missed the net with three other shot attempts in a harmless, invisible kind of game. Kucherov also didn’t really do much of anything else in a game where the Bruins didn’t have defensive stoppers Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron, which has to start making the Lightning wonder how difficult it’s going to be for them when those two players return ahead of the postseason. The Lightning were rested and waiting for the Bruins for a couple of days and should have been at their absolute best. Kucherov was among a number of Bolts players that were far from that, including goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

MORE - Scary incident involving Backes

TURNING POINT: The Bruins came out of the starting gate firing and roared past the Lightning with a strong opening period. They outshot Tampa Bay by a 12-5 margin in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t even allow a single scoring chance to the Bolts while playing letter perfect hockey for pretty much the entire time. That led to a David Pastrnak goal little more than three minutes into the game, and then the Bruins doubled their lead with a power play strike midway through the game. Once the Bruins had built up a two-goal lead with the kind of strong defense that they were dealing out on Saturday night, it was going to be awfully difficult to beat them. And Tampa didn’t even come close. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash was dropped from the top line to the third line to start the game, and responded with one of his best all-around games of the season. Nash scored on a power play strike from the slot after a big rebound bounced to him there, and that pretty much iced the game in the second period. But he was good all night with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways in 18:30 of ice time, and was excellent in the face-off circle while winning 9-of-11 draws in a big performance for the Black and Gold. Nash also stepped back into his usual spots once Backes was lost to injury at the end of the first period, and resumed the kind of solid play that’s allowed him to have his best NHL season in Boston this year. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-6-1 – the career record for Tuukka Rask vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning after another shutout win on Saturday night. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ll play a second period one of these days.” –a smiling David Backes as he limped out of the visitor’s dressing room in Tampa after leaving tonight’s win over Tampa with a laceration above his right knee caused by a skate blade. Backes was also tossed from Thursday night’s game in Florida with a match penalty in the first period as well.

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Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

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Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

BOSTON -- When push came to shove in Game 7, the Bruins were exactly the hockey club we thought they were.

Clearly they were the better team in the divisional playoff matchup with the Maple Leafs. That became apparent Wednesday night as they erased a 4-3 deficit with four third-period goals in a 7-4 win in Game 7. When it mattered most, all three members of Boston's Perfection Line scored goals; Jake DeBrusk netted a pair while outshining all the highly heralded young players on the Toronto roster, and the Bruins survived some truly concerning moments with their defense and goaltending over the first 40 minutes.

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For the fans at TD Garden it was remarkably entertaining playoff hockey. For the Leafs, it was a sobering, painful dose of reality (and their second third-period Game 7 collapse in Boston in the last five years). And for the Bruins, it was confirmation of all that we saw over the course of 82 regular-season games. After all, they were the NHL's best third-period team all year.

In a very vocal dressing room between the second and third periods, with the Bruins trailing 4-3 and sitting a mere 20 minutes from elimination, their three most experienced veterans -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who combined had more Game 7 appearances on their resumes than the entire Toronto roster -- drove that point home to their younger teammates.

"It didn't matter how long it was going to take. We were going to do the job," said Torey Krug, who scored the game-tying goal just 70 seconds into the third period. "It's kind of how we were all season long. Coming back, you know, in games and losing guys to injury, it was just kind of like the definition of our season.

"So it didn't matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them, and we did."

They did so against a goalie, Freddie Andersen, who had confounded them earlier in the series. They did so under the intense pressure of a Game 7 situation. And they so despite things not breaking well for them earlier in the game, as Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen scored soft goals against Tuukka Rask.

But the Bruins made it through waves of injuries and a hellacious final six weeks of the NHL regular season. In that spirit, they just kept grinding Wednesday night. And it's clear to see why they're regarded as a hockey team that won't be easily taken out in any series.

"That was one of the most incredible games I've ever been a part of," said Brad Marchand, who closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third period. "It was so back and forth. The intensity from the crowd and the emotion was a lot of fun to be part of. But, even after they got the lead a couple times, we just . . . we knew that we have the resiliency in the room to continue to come back. We've done it all year, so we just try to draw on that. It doesn't always go your way, but luckily tonight it did.

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"We've done it all year. [We were trailing by] only one goal. We didn't have to cheat to win. We just wanted to continue to play our game. We were getting opportunities and we just figured it was a matter of time and luckily, again, it went our way."

Well, strong third periods and hard-to-believe comebacks were definitely something the Bruins have done all year. Krug, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak and Marchand helped author another one with four consecutive goals in the third period, stunning the Maple Leafs.

Toronto, with skilled young players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and others, was no easy opponent, as evidenced by its 3-1 record against Boston in the regular season. Getting past the Leafs was no easy task.

Up next are the high-wattage Tampa Bay Lightning, with the next series starting Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena. The Bruins might not be the better team in this matchup, but they're playing with house money now after making a tremendous step forward in both an entertaining regular season and certifiably insane first round.

The one thing we know for sure: All is possible with a Bruins team that can come back from just about anything.

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Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

GOLD STAR: The Bruins needed somebody to step up aside from their top trio of forwards, and Jake DeBrusk did exactly that in a huge Game 7 moment for the Black and Gold. DeBrusk scored two goals in the do-or-die playoff game including a power play goal to open up the scoring, and the game-winning goal in the third period where he powered to the net through Jake Gardiner before sliding a shot through Frederik Andersen. DeBrusk finished with five goals and seven points in the seven game series, had five shots on net in Wednesday night’s decisive Game 7 and was the best player on the ice for either team in the series’ most important game. DeBrusk may still be a rookie in name, but he’s graduated to formidable big game player in these playoffs. 

BLACK EYE: Jake Gardiner finished with a minus-5 for the game, and was brutally bad for the Maple Leafs. This was always the glaring weakness for the Leafs on their back end and it finally showed in Game 7 with so many other moving parts flying around. Gardiner didn’t block any shots and had a couple of giveaways in his 24:01 of ice time, and his play on the game-winning goal for DeBrusk was the perfect example of his rough night. DeBrusk got Gardiner all turned around as he attacked on the right wing with speed, and powered his way to the net while releasing a shot as the Leafs D-man couldn’t eliminate him from the play. At the moment of truth, it was a young Bruins forward overpowering a veteran Leafs D-man for the game-winner, and it’s exactly how the series played out in the moments where the Bruins had the upper hand. 

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TURNING POINT: Clearly it was coming out for the third period where the Bruins have been big winners all season. The Bruins scored just 1:10 into the third period to tie up the game on a Torey Krug bomb from the point, and they didn’t allow a single shot on net in the first 10 minutes of the third period while protecting a goalie with a fragile level of confidence in his own game. Clearly the Bruins decided to put the clamps down at the right time, and eventually Jake DeBrusk busted through for the game-winner while powering through the Leafs defense for his second score of the game. In all the Bruins outshot the Leafs 11-8 in the third period, but truly controlled the final 20 minutes of play while scoring four unanswered goals against a stunned Leafs team. For the second straight Game 7 between these two teams, the third period was a house of horrors for Toronto. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron is the kind of player that lives for the Game 7 moments, and he did exactly that once again for the Bruins. It was Bergeron that finished with a goal and three points, a plus-2 in 19:36 of ice time and won 14-of-22 face-offs while playing strong through injury. Bergeron scored his first goal of the series in the big Game 7 moment, and he finished with four shot attempts, one hit, two takeaways and a blocked shot in his night’s work while filling up the box score like he always does. Even better all three members of the Bruins top line scored in the game after being held down in each of the three losses in the series, showing they were ready to show up and play big at the biggest moment in a Game 7. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – the number of points for Torey Krug at the end of the seven game series after scoring a big game-tying third period goal in Game 7. The nine points leads the field of all NHL defensemen after the first round of the playoffs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Toronto did a good job with them. They got frustrated a few times, but they stuck with the program. Even the games they’ve been quiet in terms of stats on the sheet, they’ve been generating. So, that was asked this morning: Are they getting frustrated? I think there’s always a certain level of that when you’re used to getting production, and they got it back tonight.” –Bruce Cassidy, on his top line’s ability to stick with the program, and come through in Game 7, even as they were getting frustrated later in the series.

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