BOSTON -- Save for a blip in Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins are putting together an incredible defensive run against some of the top offensive teams in the NHL -- and it has them two victories from claiming the Cup for the second time in the past 24 months.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and the Bruins shut down the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 on Monday night at TD Garden, using a pair of second-period goals and a potent combination of defense and goaltending to seize control of this series with a 2-0 victory.
"I think we're doing a good job coming back to the house and making teams work for their chances," Bruins forward Chris Kelly said. "All year long we've really stressed being a good defensive team. Tuukka has been there when we had breakdowns. ... Obviously there are aspects of the game you'd love to be a little bit better at, but on a whole I thought we played well. We moved our feet a little bit better than we did the last game, which opened up a little more for us."
Rask made 28 saves, but the dominant theme was the Blackhawks' inability to create quality offensive chances. Boston has yielded fewer than two goals in seven of its past eight playoff contests, dating back to Game 5 clincher of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The lone exception was Chicago's 4-3 triple-overtime victory in Game 1 of the Final, a game that Boston led 3-1 in the third period.
The Blackhawks were dealt a surprising blow before the start of the game when star forward Marian Hossa was scratched, but they now have just one goal in the past two games against Rask and the Bruins. They will try again to solve the Bruins' defense in Game 4 on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"I thought we did a lot of things good tonight, I thought we had a lot of the play and pushed the pace, just for whatever reason we can't capitalize on a chance," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "But time's running out. We've got to get a goal. I think we just have to come up with a big game and find a way to win."
Chicago was the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference this season. The top scorers in the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins, also found it tough to break through against these Bruins, scoring twice in a four-game sweep.
Rask watched from the bench when the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 behind a transcendent goaltending performance from Tim Thomas. It has been Rask's show in 2013, and he now has three shutouts in his past seven games -- one fewer than Thomas had in 25 playoff contests two years ago.
"It's a broken record, but I'll continue to say Tuukka has been our most consistent player all year long and he seems to be getting better and better," Kelly said. "When you have that much confidence in an individual, it makes everyone's game that much more relaxed."
Daniel Paille scored his second goal of the series to give the Bruins the lead after a scoreless first period. Paille kept the puck in the Chicago zone along the left wall and found Tyler Seguin for a great chance in the slot that Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford got a piece of. The puck went into the right corner, and Chicago's Dave Bolland thought he was going to clear it out of danger -- but Paille lifted his stick to take the puck away, then turned and fired a shot past Crawford at 2:13.
Paille scored the Game 2 winner in overtime after setting up Boston's first goal of that contest for Kelly. Those two were put with Seguin for a new-look third line early in the second period of Game 2 and proceeded to score three straight goals for the team.
"I think we're just putting pucks on net and reading plays," Paille said. "I think we're managing the puck better. On my goal you saw [Kelly] go in and then I went in and then I shot. We're not giving them enough time to think with the puck and we're able to get it."
Patrice Bergeron ended the new third line's streak with a power-play goal at 14:05 of the second period.
The Bruins had a 5-on-3 for 11 seconds with Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the penalty box. Bergeron beat Chicago captain Jonathan Toews on the faceoff after Hjalmarsson's penalty, and after Bolland raced out of the penalty box to join the play but before he could get all the way, the Bruins' center scored his seventh goal of the 2013 playoffs. Jaromir Jagr threaded a pass through the Chicago crease to Bergeron before the Blackhawks could reset their penalty-killing triangle into a 4-on-5 box.
"We had 11 seconds on the 5-on-3 so we had to make something happen there quick," Bergeron said. "We talked about the play and it worked.
"It was a great pass [by Jagr]. I was expecting the puck to come, but it was a perfect play. I had to kind of settle it down a bit. It was a hard pass and it was a great pass. It was pretty. I just had to put it in, and thankfully I did that."
This game was off to a bizarre start before the puck was dropped for the opening faceoff with the Hossa scratch as well as when Boston captain Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic collided near the end of the pregame skate; Chara declined to comment about the incident after the contest, but coach Claude Julien said Chara had "a little gash over his eye."
Hossa was tied for the team lead with 15 points in this postseason and has been Chicago's most consistent forward. Ben Smith, who played one game during the regular season for the Blackhawks, replaced him in the lineup, and coach Joel Quenneville scrambled his lines to offset the absence of Hossa.
"We've got a deep team and plenty of guys who can fill in," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "I'm confident with the players we have on this team. We've had no problem scoring goals ever, really, since I've been here. We're in the Stanley Cup Final against a team that deserves to be here, that's here because of the way they play physically and check away from the puck, so it's just tough to score out there; we've got to find a way. We know what's on the line."
Chicago has dealt with losing a star player for a game earlier in this postseason. Defenseman Duncan Keith was suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, but the Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings anyway before closing the series out in five games.
There wasn't nearly as much time to plan for this loss. Hossa was out on the ice for warmups, and it appeared the only lineup change would be Viktor Stalberg in for Brandon Bollig before Hossa's surprising scratch.
With or without Hossa, the Blackhawks have struggled to generate offense since a blazing start to Game 2. Counting overtime in Game 2, Chicago hasn't scored a goal in six-plus periods.
"It's a low-chance game. It's a low-chance series," Quenneville said. "Scoring first is important, even though the winners of the last couple games prior to that didn't score first. It's hard to get A-plus chances. You have to manufacture the second, kind of ugly goals, tip screens, deflections."