BOSTON – Given the impact they enjoyed throughout the series, it was only appropriate B’s fourth line center Gregory Campbell powered the game-winning goal that eventually eliminated the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. The fourth line pivot also added the empty net insurance strike in an eventual 3-1 victory in Game 5 at TD Garden that eliminated the Blueshirts, and pushed the Bruins into the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in the last three years.
It was also the second game-winning goal of the series for the B’s fourth line, who really helped win the series when New York’s fourth line couldn’t match their energy, intensity or production.
“They definitely stepped up with some huge goals in this series, and [had] two-game winners. Like we talk about all the time, we’re a team that counts on everybody. Just because they’re our fourth line doesn’t mean that they can’t produce,” said Milan Lucic. “They’ve shown that they’re an important part of this hockey club. I think they definitely stepped the most in this series so they deserve a lot of credit.”
With the score tied at 1-1 in the second period, the B’s fourth line took advantage of a pair of Roman Hamrlik miscues in the neutral zone and attacked the New York net with the speed and tenacity befitting an energy line.
Daniel Paille weaved through defenders to soften up the defense, and slid a cross-ice pass toward Shawn Thornton camped in front of the net. The puck bounced off the Bruins enforcer, and skipped into the slot as Campbell was hustling toward the front of the New York net. Campbell went top shelf with the rebound bid, and gave the Bruins their first lead of the game at a score of 2-1.
Campbell added the empty net goal with 51 seconds remaining in the game, and that handed the fourth line 10 overall points in the five game playoff series against the Rangers. So Campbell has three goals scored during 12 Stanley Cup playoff games this spring after managing just four goals in 48 games during the regular season for the Black and Gold.
Not bad for a bunch of fourth liners that were overlooked heading into the series against the shot-blocking Blueshirts bunch.
“We just try our best and try to do the things that we can and try to be responsible, bring energy and really work together and try to make a difference every game. Some games the way we contribute is different than the way we contributed tonight,” said Campbell. “It’s not every game that we’re going to put the puck in the net, but it has to be in some fashion. We have to contribute as a line, so against a team like the Rangers, who are pretty solid. We really had to rely on our depth, and we knew that we had to play a role.”
In true fourth line fashion, however, the B’s trio of energy forward finished with more registered hits (5) than shots on net (3), and continues to show that they’ll always bring the emotion even if the offense dries up.
That may be vital in the next round against a deep, talented group of Pittsburgh Penguins players, and it may be a series where the B’s fourth line struggles a bit to score goals against an elite hockey club. Only time will tell, but if anything has been learned it’s never wise to count out any member of Boston’s Merlot Line.