TORONTO – Faced with a hostile environment at the Air Canada Centre hosting its first Stanley Cup playoff game in nine years and a Maple Leafs team brimming with confidence coming off a win in Boston, the Bruins coldly and clinically went about playing their game.
David Krejci’s line accounted for a pair of big goals, Rich Peverley snapped in his first score of the playoffs, Daniel Paille kicked in a shorthanded goal, and Krejci then scored the empty-netter to give the Bruins a convincing 5-2 win over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. Krejci now has a team-leading six points (1 goal, 5 assists), Milan Lucic has five assists through three games and Nathan Horton has three goals in three games against the Maple Leafs team he grew up rooting for.
The Leafs got a little bit of life of a Phil Kessel power play score – their second PP goal of the game – to start the third period, but the Bruins were simply too strong, dominant and defensively disciplined this time around with their full complement of blueliners.
Adam McQuaid got things going for the Bruins when he scored from the right point off a Krejci face-off win in the offensive zone, and then Peverley and Horton added quick transition goals in the second period sandwiched between a Jake Gardiner power play score.
Paille added the backbreaker when he stripped Phil Kessel of a puck at his blue line and beat James Reimer with a backhanded bid to give Boston a three-goal lead heading into the final period. Kessel got that goal back on a power play score during a mad scramble in front of the net, but that was it for the Maple Leafs as they fell 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
GOLD STAR: Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton all deserve top dog status after their line combined for three goals, eight points and a plus-9 in a big Game 3 win at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. All of their goals were incredibly meaningful for the entire game: a Krejci face-off win in the offensive zone led to Boston’s opening goal in the first period, a bank pass off the boards sprung Nathan Horton and Lucic for an odd-man rush that answered Toronto’s goal in the second, and Krejci popped in the open netter that iced the game in the third period. They certainly weren’t perfect, but they’ve basically accounted for all of the offense scored by the B’s in their first round match vs. the Maple Leafs.
BLACK EYE: Dion Phaneuf all kinds of atrocious when it comes to being a shutdown defenseman against the Boston Bruins. He was minus-12 against Boston over the course of the last two regular seasons, and he once again struggled to lock things down in his own zone against the Bruins’ best forwards. He did ring a post and threw a few doozies among his five hits on the evening, but his minus-2 rating and unsightly five giveaways just aren’t up to snuff against a playoff-caliber offensive team. He clearly wasn’t the only one struggling on the back end for Toronto, but he’s supposed to be the best that they’ve got. He was far from that in Game 3.
TURNING POINT: The Leafs capitalized on some Bruins penalties and Boston’s failure to clear the puck out of the zone when Jake Gardiner rifled home a power play strike with less than seven minutes to go in the second period. That goal halved Boston’s lead to 2-1 with roughly half of the playoff game still remaining, and got the Air Canada Centre crowd buzzing. But the Bruins responded less than a minute later as a long lead pass off the boards from David Krejci sprung Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, and turned into a Horton snipe under the bar that extended the B’s lead back to a 3-1 advantage. That was a backbreaking score for the Leafs, even though they fired off an 18-shot barrage in the third period.
HONORABLE MENTION: Rich Peverley continues to build up his confidence and round back into the playoff form that saw him so effective last spring against the Washington Capitals. He had a quietly excellent game against the Maple Leafs in Game 3, and contributed with a big second period goal when both the speedy winger and Jaromir Jagr turned some heavy fore-check pressure into instant offense. Jagr stole the puck from Cody Franson behind the net, and fed Peverley in front for the quick strike goal that represented Boston’s first goal scored by a forward other than a member of the Krejci line. He also won 10-of-11 face-offs, and seemed to start getting ahead of the learning curve of adjustment when playing with Jaromir Jagr, who also played his best game of this postseason.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 – the amount of seconds anybody dwelled on match-ups or the Phil Kessel/Zdeno Chara battle in a game where the Bruins simply imposed their will by playing their brand of hockey.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s an exciting time. Every goal and every win brings closer to the goal you have at the end of it. That’s exciting and brings you a lot of motivation.” –David Krejci, who leads all players in the Stanley Cup playoffs with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) through three games.