No More Chasing, as Bruins Take the Lead
BOSTON, MA - Entering Game 5 on Saturday night at TD Garden, the Bruins' lead-time in the series had been a grand total of 11 minutes and 39 seconds.
For a team that can protect a lead and suffocate the opponent once it gets ahead, catch-up hockey's not the ideal way to play.
Carl Soderberg helped change that, putting the Spoked-B on the board 13:20 into the first period en route to their 4-2 win and the 3-2 series lead.
After that, as the winning goaltender said from the Bruins' locker room postgame, they "never looked back."
"Did everything we wanted to. Good start. Kept pushing, kept pushing," said Tuukka Rask, who backstopped the Black & Gold with 29 saves.
"It’s always better to play with a lead than kind of chasing the goals. It’s always easier that way," said Captain Zdeno Chara.
"We are pretty good team to play with a lead and they are, too," said Soderberg, as he spoke to reporters in the team's 'Player of the Game' Jacket, passed on from Matt Fraser. "It’s always important, especially in the second and third."
The Bruins didn't stop there. They had built a 1-0 first period lead back in Game 2 at TD Garden, and had to claw their way back from a 3-1 deficit before winning 5-3 off Reilly Smith's game-winner late in the third period.
It's an exhausting way to play, especially night after night in the postseason.
"Mentally, a little bit less taxing," said Smith, of playing with the lead. "It’s tough, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to try to get those goals back, and if they’re not going in, it’s pretty tough mentally."
There was no need for that on Saturday night.
Granted a power play late in the first period, when Tomas Plekanec collided with Rask and was assessed a goalie interference penalty, the Bruins cashed in to start the second.
After strong movement and sustained time in the zone, Soderberg drew the Habs' penalty kill to the left side of the ice, before hitting Dougie Hamilton with a cross-ice pass up at the point. The defenseman's shot pass went right off Smith's stick in front, hit the winger's skate and squeezed through Carey Price's five-hole.
It was the Bruins' first power-play goal of the series, after going 0-for-10 up until that point. It also snapped an 0-for-40 stretch against the Habs in the playoffs, dating back to Game 2 of the 2009 conference quarterfinals.
"We got a little bit away from the things that brought success early in the year," said Smith. "In the first series it seemed like everything was going in, so we maybe took it for granted maybe a little bit, but it was good to get back to it tonight."
"I think we stuck to it, we tried to slow things down, get our pace back. Their penalty kill was outworking us for the first period, so it was good to get back and take control."
Thirty-six seconds after Smith's score, Plekanec went back in the box for catching Johnny Boychuk with a high stick.
It took just six seconds for the other power-play unit to cash in.
Off the faceoff, Torey Krug won a battle in the right corner along the boards, and immediately backhanded a no-look feed past P.K. Subban's stick and right onto Iginla's tape at the left circle for the one-timer.
"It’s a tough play, it was P.K., the guy he beat. [Torey's] a special player and he’s a very creative guy," said Iginla. "We’ve been fortunate all year to have the young guys on our PP units, Dougie Hamilton, Krugs [Torey Krug], Smitty [Reilly Smith], it’s pretty impressive composure they have."
The goal came just 32 seconds after Smith's tally.
"I think our two units, they’re so different, so it’s tougher for teams to be able to key in on certain plays and certain players because the looks are so different, it’s tough for them to adjust," said Smith.
By the 1:36 mark of the second period, the Bruins had taken a commanding 3-0 lead.
"I thought we were intense when we started the game, but their power play gave them a lot of momentum and confidence," said Montreal Head Coach Michel Therrien. "That’s the way I see it."
"You know, we haven’t taken too many leads this series, so it was good to have that three-nothing lead, have that cushion underneath us," said Smith. "Because that comfort level definitely hasn’t been there this series."
The Habs made it a two-goal game with a power-play goal of their own at 14:39 into the second period, with Brendan Gallagher tipping one past Rask from the top of the crease.
The trio would also be the ones to give the Bruins back their three-goal lead, at 14:12 into the third period. After Fraser's shot ricocheted off Price, Eriksson was there in front to pot the rebound.
"Obviously you want to be up, but it allows us to push even harder and not be sitting back on our toes," said Fraser. "And I think in the first couple games, you kind of get behind the eight ball and all of a sudden you’re watching the clock."
"After the second period, we had the lead but we wanted to continue pushing forward and not sit back and protect it."
While the Bruins allowed a second power-play goal from the Habs late in the third, they weren't relinquishing this lead.
Boston has now scored 13 third-period goals in the playoffs, while only allowing six from the opponent.
The way the entire game played out, it was Boston Bruins hockey.
"I think everybody who knows and who has followed our team noticed that," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "I think it was more — we seemed more in control, we seemed to be putting pucks in the right areas, we seemed to be in sync, and I thought we were focused for the whole 60 minutes."
They got in hard on the forecheck, and played a physical, imposing game.
"I think it’s more of our brand of hockey," said defenseman Kevan Miller. "We’ve been chasing the whole series; we get down one here, down two there. It changes our game a lot. So, I think you saw more of what our game is."
"We just played the way we should be playing," said Johnny Boychuk, who landed three of Bruins' 39 hits and blocked four shots. "Before, we were trying to do things that were uncharacteristic and we knew that. "
"We have to play our game in order for us to succeed or have a chance to win."
Now that the Bruins have the 3-2 edge in the series, they know that the toughest challenge lies ahead, as they travel back to the Bell Centre for Game 6.
They'll be looking for the same 60-minute focus from their group come Monday night, with the Habs battling for their Stanley Cup Playoff lives.
"Hopefully we use that momentum and we build on it," said Smith. "Because it’s a lot nicer having that couple goals lead, instead of always trailing and trying to battle back."