Merlot Does It Again
NEW YORK, NY - Do you hear that record scratching?
This is going to sound like a broken record the entire way through.
The Merlot Line trio comprised of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton (don't dare call them the fourth line) came up big for the second straight game and propelled the Bruins to their 2-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden - a place that hasn't been all too friendly to the Bruins, at that.
They got pucks in deep, forechecked, battled, utilized every inch of the ice time given to them. It's the line's trademark, and they led to both of the Bruins' goals in the victory. Paille earned the game-winner. It wasn't a "highlight-reel" tally, but it found the back of the net.
"Merlot for everyone, ay?" Thornton would have said.
Paille was wearing the Army Rangers 'Player of the Game' jacket following the win, as reporters swarmed his stall in the visiting locker room. It was passed along from his linemate, Campbell, who had earned it for his own gritty effort in Game Two.
"They live by a slogan, 'Rangers Lead the Way'," Andrew Ference has said, on the meaning of the jacket, a specialized Bruins' one given to him by the Army Rangers with customized Bruins and Rangers logos. "So I think it's fitting to give this to a player that led the way for us in a game. For us, it's important to have guys step up. So they get to wear this for the night."
Boston now has the 3-0 series lead over New York. Paille, Campbell and Thornton accounted for five of the Black & Gold's six points. They collectively put up a goal and four assists, fired six shots on Rangers' netminder Henrik Lundqvist - a brick wall for most of the night - and landed seven hits.
"They were great. They're the reason why we won," said defenseman Johnny Boychuk following the win, in which he scored the Bruins' first of the game, his fourth of the postseason, following a hard shift by the Merlot Line.
"They don't get the credit they deserve, but tonight, they do. They worked hard, they did the right things, they get it deep and just battled, went to the net, and good things happened."
The Bruins went into the third period trailing the Rangers 1-0. They had outshot them in the second period, 14-5, and outchanced them, but still went into the third with Lundqvist making a shutout bid.
Throughout the game, Torey Krug and Tyler Seguin each landed four shots. In the first, Seguin and Chris Kelly had point-blank chances turned away by Lundqivst. Late, Rich Peverley nearly converted, Jaromir Jagr was denied, Nathan Horton hit the post.
To start the third period, Tuukka Rask stayed his calm self and made the timely stops.
And when the Merlot trio hopped over the boards less than three minutes into the frame, they brought on their hard forecheck. Matt Bartkowsk pinched to keep the puck in deep, and then let the gritty forwards do their work along the boards and in behind Lundqvist. Paille got the puck up to Boychuk at the right point, who quickly wristed a seeing-eye shot through Campbell, Thornton and the Rangers' blueliner providing the screens.
"I think it's all about traffic," said Patrice Bergeron, on the key to the B's getting past Lundqvist Tuesday night. "I think in the first two games we did a good job of that. If you don't see it, it's going to be tough to, obviously, stop it. We know he's a great goalie and when he sees the shot, he's going to make the stop. It's about having some better screens and I think we did that in the third and made it a little harder on them."
"We - well, the fourth line - found a way."
"You know what? It was one of those nights where he was on his game and you could see the confidence he had throughout the whole game," said the game-winning goal scorer, Paille, on Lundqvist's presence between the pipes. Despite the loss, the goaltender made 32 stops.
"The goals that went in, there wasn't really much he could do; there was a screen on one and redirect on another."
His "redirect" was much more than that. After the initial shot, Thornton was camped in front and thought the puck had gone in; no worries when the goal horn didn't go off, though, as Paille zeroed in on the puck as soon as it popped off Lundqivst's mask and in the crease, and swatted at it, punching it into the net to put the Bruins up, 2-1, with 3:31 left in the third.
"As soon as Thorty shot that puck I saw it in the air, and as soon as I saw it in there Lundqvist didn't see where it was and I just tried to get it to the net as quick as I could," said Paille. "Battled with the New York player and I was able to get a piece of it and it redirected off my stick."
"I was definitely happy that that one went in."
It was Paille's second of the playoffs, with his first - a shorthanded tally - coming against Toronto.
"That's what our line has to do, we have to continue to do that and when the goals are there, that's perfect, especially tonight like that," said Paille, on his line's scoresheet contributions.
"I think that's one thing that we do well and try to do on a consistent basis. I think it was good to see us contribute."
The importance of the four-line effort cannot be understated. The Bruins have talked again and again about how that consistent roll-out has led to their success.
"Absolutely. They did the same thing a couple years ago in the Finals and they were a key contributor for our team," said Boychuk of the hard-working Merlot liners. "When they get the chance, they've been doing a good job."
None of the three players eclipsed 12 minutes in ice-time in Game Three (Campbell playing for 11:45, Paille with 11:10 and Thornton logging 6:42) - and admittedly "weren't actually that great in the first period." But, they ended up making their minutes count.
"If we don't try to win every battle, we don't get back out there," said Thornton. "It's a bit of a necessity, I suppose."
Though the Bruins relied on their "fourth line" for the goals, with Paille and Boychuk the two to convert, they were pleased with their full-60, team effort in the win.
"I think it was a good effort by everyone, top to bottom," said Bergeron, stitched up from a cut above his right eye that had led to a few rough-and-tumble blood stains on his white road jersey in the third period.
"That's what we need in the playoffs, little details. That fourth line came up huge in that third period, but I thought all the lines and all the D's chipped in in their own way and helped us win that game."
"We are a four-line deep team - it showed again today," he added. "We obviously got to keep doing the same things."
"It's only three wins and we've said it so many times, that the last one's the toughest, so we have to be ready for that fourth win."