TORONTO – David Krejci scored a goal with just over six minutes to go in overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 3-1 series lead.
The Leafs were all over Boston in the first period with Zdeno Chara suffering his first 20 minutes of the playoffs thus far. He and Wade Redden looked confused out on the ice together after a sloppy defensemen change, and allowed Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul way too much time and space to create Toronto’s first goal. Then Chara skated in front of Tuukka Rask on a Cody Franson wrist shot from the deep right point, and the B’s goaltender missed the puck.
Boston stormed back in the second period with a Patrice Bergeron power play goal on a James Reimer rebound, and David Krejci added his third and fourth goals of the postseason to give Boston a lead. Bergeron’s score was his first of the playoffs, and first tally for any member of his highly skilled line of forwards.
The Boston lead was short-lived as Clarke MacArthur beat Rask through the pads to tie things up right after Boston had taken the lead, and set things up for a battle in the final 20 minutes. Both teams had extended possessions with the man advantage in the third, including a four minute double-minor on Toronto when Nazem Kadri drew blood on Chris Kelly with a high stick, but neither could get any traction on their special teams chances.
GOLD STAR: David Krejci has stepped forward as the key player in this series for the Boston Bruins. He finished with the hat trick and the overtime game-winner, and was positively Datsyuk-ian throughout this game with eight shots on net, a plus-2 and 12-of-20 face-off wins in 22:18 of ice time. The soft-spoken center now leads the NHL field with five goals and 10 points in four playoff games, and was so strong on the puck while making plays all over the ice. The goals were such a good array of scoring that show off his versatility: the first was a rebound in front, the second a one-timer off a cross-ice pass on the power play and the third line a simple finishing shot after taking it hard to the net. Just as he led the NHL in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games two years ago, he seems to be doing the same exact thing again for the Black and Gold.
BLACK EYE: Dion Phaneuf once again wears the goat horns. He had ten hits and six blocked shots in 31:14 of ice time, but he also finished with five giveaways and made a poor choice in overtime when he attempted to take out Nathan Horton with a finishing hit. That opened the Bruins up for a transition counter-attack, and finished with Krejci scoring the game-winning goal. Phaneuf just isn’t a good enough player to be the shutdown top defenseman in a high end playoff caliber team if he doesn’t have a strong supporting cast around him, and he’s been exposed in a series where he’s now minus-4 in four games. Phaneufs leads the entire Stanley Cup playoff field with 11 giveaways in four games, which ties him with Cody Franson for most in the league. It’s tough to win that way.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins needed to respond immediately to start the second period after falling down 2-0 in the first 20 minutes, and then watching as Milan Lucic caught a deflected shot in the eyebrow that caused a pool of blood on the ice. The B’s power forward got nine stitches in between periods, and then the Bruins scored 32 seconds into the middle period to start gathering the momentum back. If the Black and Gold hadn’t gathered themselves off the mat right at the start of the second period, the overtime victory never would have been possible. The Bruins ended up scoring three straight goals in the second period to power their offense, and set things up for David Krejci’s heroics in the extra session.
HONORABLE MENTION: After playing pretty badly in the first 20 minutes, Zdeno Chara answered the bell in the biggest way possible for the rest of the contest and finished with a game-high four assists in 33:03 of ice time along with an even plus/minus rating. That was after Chara had come off the ice at the end of the first period with a minus-2, and played a major role in both of the goals allowed with him on the ice. He finished with five hits, two blocked shots and generated seven shot attempts while holding down the fort defensively in a game where both emptied the effort bucket all over the ice. The difference between the first period and the rest of the game really underscores just how important Chara is to the Bruins.
BY THE NUMBERS: 15-2 – the Bruins’ record in their playoff history when they take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven playoff series, which is exactly where they are headed back to Boston for Friday’s Game 5.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a lot of guys doing a lot of things that they don't really want to, but that's part of winning." –Johnny Boychuk in a bone fide Stanley Cup playoff win in Game 4 that featured plenty of blood, pain and the Bruins defenseman willing to block a shot with his face in front of the net when his right leg gave out after blocking a shot.