TORONTO -- Riley Nash certainly didn’t expect to be in the middle of a controversial call in his return to the Bruins lineup, but there it was in the first period of Monday night’s Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre.
The B’s third-line center chipped a puck out of the defensive zone that careened off the glass and then rode up and over into the stands. It appeared to be a whistle and a face-off. But the Maple Leafs immediately began calling for a delay-of-game penalty. The referees went into a conference and called a penalty on a play that clearly wasn’t a delay of game.
The mild-mannered Nash said his peace on the way to the penalty box. The Maple Leafs scored seven seconds into the power play for the first goal of the game, and went on to a 4-2 win. And after the game, Nash was still shaking his head about it.
“I know it was the wrong call," he said. "I saw it go off the glass and that’s about all there is to it.
“They see what they see. It’s hard because you want to change their minds sometimes, but that might be one of those [plays] that you might allow a challenge. It seems like there are a lot of close plays like that. It was a little frustrating, but you need to be able to put it behind you and move on.”
Otherwise it was a pretty solid return to the lineup for Nash after missing the previous seven games, regular season and playoffs, after taking a puck to the side of the head in the final game of March.
“I felt pretty good," he said. "You never know how your legs are going to react, especially in a playoff game with that kind of game speed. You try and mimic it and bag skates and practices, but overall I thought it was pretty good.
“There was a little bit of rust on some plays I’d like to have back, but overall we made some good plays and we’ll just move forward from there.”
Nash finished with three shots on net, a blocked shot and 6-of-11 faceoff wins in his 13:08 of ice time while centering in his old spot between Danton Heinen and David Backes. The bogus penalty call ended up being his biggest impact on Game 3, but his return to the lineup should bring back some of the Bruins' very good depth down.
“Once [injured players are] cleared to go, they’ll get all the work they can handle in their role," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "[Nash is] a third-line center, so we expect him to kill penalties, play his regular shift and matchup with whoever he’s out there against."
Nash did all of that as described on Monday night, but also unwittingly because the center of controversy with a completely benign clear from the defensive zone that, thanks to the referees, went completely awry.