When the game is on the line, the Bergeron line is as clutch as clutch gets.
So clutch in fact, that it naturally filters down – even to a rookie defenseman participating in his first ever playoff game.
Bergeron, the Game 7 hero in the quarterfinal matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs with two goals, including the game winner in overtime, again worked his magic – this time to help give his team a leg up in their semifinal series with the New York Rangers…
…feeding previously transparent winger Brad Marchand with a pass right on his tape, the puck easily beating Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 4:20 remaining in overtime as the Boston Bruins took Game 1 of their semifinal series with New York 3-2.
Boston also got goals from captain Zdeno Chara and rookie blue liner Torey Krug, and netminder Tuukka Rask stopped 33 of 35 Rangers’ shots as the Bruins carried over momentum from their epic series win over the Maple Leafs on Monday night.
In fact, Rask was dominant for all but a 16 second interval that spanned the last two seconds of the second period and the first 14 seconds of the third.
After a physical, scoreless opening frame, Chara – who logged over 38 minutes of ice time in the game – scored on a knuckler from the point with just over 7 minutes left in the second period, the puck handcuffing Lundqvist who made the initial stop, but the puck trickled behind him and, falling backwards, put it in the net himself to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead…
…which looked like it was going to be the score headed into the third, but the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh intercepted a weak clearing attempt by Tyler Seguin and fired a rocket past a stunned Rask with 1.3 seconds left in the period, and the teams went into the locker rooms knotted at 1-1.
The Rangers won the opening faceoff in the third period, got the puck into the attacking zone quickly and Derek Stepan took a sweet centering pass from Carl Hagelin and blew a one timer through the five hole with just 14 seconds gone in the final frame for a 2-1 New York lead.
Then, just as in their previous game against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins’ turned up the intensity and took the game back from the Rangers.
Less than three minutes after the Rangers took the lead, Krug, a call up from the AHL’s Providence Bruins to help fill in for Boston’s trio of injured defensemen , wound up and fired a laser over Lundqvist’s shoulder from the top of the left circle and the game was tied once again.
“For his first goal, he couldn’t have asked for better timing,” Bruins’ coach Claude Julien said of Krug’s first NHL goal in his very first playoff game.
Boston had several opportunities to win the game in regulation, but Johnny Boychuck and Jaromir Jagr both had drives that clanked off of the crossbar, Boychuck’s just as the horn sounded, and the game headed for overtime against a now rattled Rangers’ goalie.
Firing at will, the Bruins pelted Lundqvist in the extra frame, a barrage so overwhelming that it caused the candid coach of the Rangers, John Tortorella to quip “we got spanked in the overtime.”
Boston outshot the obviously tired Rangers in the bonus period by an embarassing 16-5 margin, finally ending the game at 4:20 of overtime as the streaking Marchand easily beat the exhausted Mats Zuccarello to the slot where he slapped Bergeron’s perfect pass through the legs of the besieged New York netminder.
Lundqvist was left sprawled out on the ice in the crease and Zuccarello floowed the puck, sliding hard into the net as Marchand and his teammates sprinted to midice to celebrate right in front of the sin bin
“I kind of knew he was coming in the middle, but I was just too locked in on the puck,” Lundqvist said. “Sooner or later when you face a lot of chances like that, you’re going to make a mistake.”
And so it goes for a Rangers’ team that came into the series riding high after eliminating the favored Washington Capitals in seven games, and were considered the superior skating and defensive team coming into the semifinals, but Boston’s rope-a-dope tactics early in the game and deft line changes kept the Bruins fresh, and were able to dictate the action late in the contest…
…which has to be a major concern to Tortorella, who was so irritated after the game that he snapped at journalists and walked out in a huff after the “got spanked” remark.
The Bruins can take complete control of the series with a win in Boston on Sunday by keeping the pressure on the Rangers and not letting up, using their obvious coaching and conditioning advantage to wear down the Rangers…
…and if New York can’t find an answer the the Bruins’ brutish dominance and hack into their confidence, this has the earmarks of a very short series.