NEW YORK — This is a story about the excellence of the Bruins’ fourth line Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, but the same story could be written about all four B’s lines.
It may well be that there hasn’t been another game this season in which the B’s rolled four lines so effectively, and got such solid and smart play from their rear guard. Not to mention a typically fine Tuukka Rask game.
The scoring summary may give some the impression Game 3 of the Bruins-Rangers second-round series was a typically tight and even playoff game; the truth is, the B’s were the stronger, sharper and smarter team by a large margin en route to their 2-1 victory, which gave them a 3-0 Eastern Conference semifinal series lead.
The Bruins can complete a sweep in New York Thursday night, when the series resumes at 7 p.m. Game 5, if necessary, would be Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Only the superb play of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (32 saves) prevented a blowout Tuesday night, as the B’s repeatedly out-skated and out-competed the home team, forcing turnovers all over the ice and controlling the puck in the offensive zone much of the night.
Since you can’t name 19 No. 1 Stars of the Game, the spotlight went to fourth-liners Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell, who consistently outplayed their New York counterparts. Paille and Thornton assisted on defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s game-tying goal early in the third. Then Paille, assisted by both his linemates, swept in the game-winner on a very odd play with 3:31 left, giving the B’s a win they richly deserved.
“We’re a better team when all four lines are going for 60 (minutes),” said Thornton. “(Tuesday night) we didn’t have any passengers. (The fourth line) might have been the ones who got a couple of goals, but I thought everyone was going.
“Everyone came to play. This isn’t an easy building to play in. They’re always close games. (The Rangers are) a heavy team. They’re strong on pucks. It takes everyone to get a win like that.”
Let’s amend that statement slightly. The Rangers want to be a heavy team and strong on the puck, but in this one, those attributes belonged only to the Bruins.
With Lundqvist having made close to a dozen spectacular saves, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead into the third. But the Bruins were understandably confident.
“We felt like we were playing some pretty good hockey,” said Campbell. “We know that in the playoffs things can change pretty quickly.”
The change came 3:10 into the third, when the B’s did some more of their overwhelming forechecking and Campbell and Thornton set up screens in front of Lundqvist, who got only a late look at Boychuk’s wrister from the right point, which flew past him into the top right corner.
Then came the wacky winner at 16:29. Thornton tipped a shot in front, and the puck hit Lundqvist and bounced high in the air above the goalie, who frantically tried to locate it. The puck landed behind him, directly on the goal line. And somehow, in defiance of the laws of physics, it bounced back away from the net — even as Thornton raised his hands in celebration, believing the puck was in.
The puck sat loose behind Lundqvist, until Paille jumped in to sweep it off a post and in.
“I couldn’t see behind (Lundqvist), hence the reason I put my arms up,” said Thornton.