After Game 4's victory, which was pretty darn awesome, you could be forgiven if you thought the Bruins new MO was to try to pull the game out late. The fact that they've accomplished that twice in this series isn't much relief for those of us with playoff-related blood pressure issues. So all that said, it was especially nice to see the Bruins come out of the gate strong and keep the pressure on.
Carl Soderberg potted his first playoff goal at 13:20 of the first period. Loui Eriksson took the puck from Matt Bartkowski, skated behind the net, and absorbed a hit from the perpetually-late Douglas Murray right after he fed Soderberg out front. Carl, who previously had not scored despite playing pretty well in these playoffs, did not miss this time, as his shot went in off the right post.
The rest of the first period saw a mild pushback by the Habs, but it ended up being pretty even overall. With four minor penalties assessed to each time, the first period tonight included 4x the penalties that were called in all of Game 3. Happily for the Bruins, the PK stood tall. Unhappily for Boston, the trend of never scoring on the Power Play (hello, 2010-2011?) continued in the first.
It was in the second period, known to fans as the Bruins weakest during the regular season, where the Power Play finally hit paydirt. The Bruins began the period on the man advantage thanks to a Tomas Plekanec goaltending interference call, and they converted only 1:04 into the second frame when Reilly Smith tipped home a Dougie Hamilton shot to beat Carey Price. Less than thirty seconds later, the normally-disciplined Turtleneck put his team back on the kill with a high stick on Johnny Boychuk.
The Bruins converted yet again, this time with a beautiful backhand pass from Torey Krug to a wide open Jarome Iginla. Iginla, who had struggled a bit this series up to this point, had no trouble slipping one between Price's side and blocker, as the Habs goalie didn't get enough of the puck to keep it out, and the Bruins looked like they might completely run away with the game. 3-0, less than two minutes left. Power Play off the 'schneid not once, but twice.
Montreal did get back in it, to some extent anyway, but Tuukka Rask refused to let them score until Brad Marchand's penalty for holding the stick of Lars Eller (who has had an excellent series in shutting down the David Krejci line, but wasn't as visible tonight). At 14:39, defensemen Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski let two Habs, including Brendan Gallagher, set a screen on Rask. Plekanec, who had an eventful game to say the least, deflected a shot off Gallagher and in. The lead was 3-1.
However, as the Bruins have done so often this season, they almost completely clamped down on an opponent in the third period. Despite a slight lack of o-zone play, the B's did an excellent job of clogging the middle, and the Habs never did make that much of a push. Max Pacioretty had an attempt on the Power Play that squirted wide, and it was probably the Canadiens best chance to score before Boston added the back-breaking marker.
And on the B's 4th tally, once again Matt Fraser was in the middle of things. Frozen Yogurt Fraser made an excellent pass to Loui Eriksson from high along the right boards, and the wide-open Eriksson potted has second goal of the playoffs by waiting out Price. Soderberg got an assist for carrying in, which gave him three points (and a deserved First Star for the night).
Matt Bartkowski took his second holding call of the night in the closing minutes, further opening up questions as to what the best option is beside Boychuk on the second pairing (we could well ask about Torey Krug's partner, too, I suppose), which lead to PK Subban's howitzer consolation goal. With a 4-2 lead, Therrien kept the goalie pulled, but the Habs generated very little after the Power Play.
Their were also some antics at the end involving Shawn Thornton and a water bottle and oh god let's just talk about the win, eh?
- As hard-charging as the Bruins have been on the comeback in this series, it was a lot more fun (and evidence of better Hockey being played by the B's) to see them get an early lead and hold it. Too often in this series, the Habs have been in position to win in the third period despite the Bruins being the better team in terms of driving play.
- The Power Play coming back to life. The two quickfire goals essentially put this game out of reach, and seeing the old man, Jarome Iginla, put one of them home was pretty awesome.
- Even Strength play. Once again, the Bruins looked like the better team 5-on-5. While it's true that the Fenwicks and Corsis ended up even, that's a positive thing for Boston given that the Habs were the ones "chasing the game." And Montreal appeared to be totally unable to generate offense for much of the third.
- Tuukka Rask was again pretty dang good, as the only dents against him came on the Power Play. And let's be real, the first goal was pretty clearly on his DMen...and the second was a PK Subban full wind-up fastball.
- The Bruins are one game from the Eastern Conference Finals with two chances to win it. C'mon, that's just fun as hell that Boston's with a step of the last four.
- Carl Soderberg's line once again took advantage of the Douglas Murray-Mike Weaver pairing, and broke through on the scoresheet as well. Years from now, when scientists unearth Murray's massive frame, they'll wonder why anyone thought he could play Hockey.
- The Habs did not score on a breakaway, so I guess things are going slightly better in terms of that whole "defense" thing.
- There weren't many bad things. I generally liked pretty much everything about the way this game chose to be, but...
- It has to be said that the Bruins penalty kill still really isn't clicking the way it did during the regular season or against Detroit. Two more PPGs against. In a closer game, this might really hurt.
- Matt Bartkowski still isn't looking up to snuff a lot of the time on the second pairing, as I mentioned above. This time in the form of clutching and grabbing a bit too much. And there's no easy answer, since scratching Bart or shuffling him to play with Torey Krug would leave Andrej Meszaros in the Top 4. This Bruins team only has a few weaknesses, and the 4th line doesn't get iced much, so the 4D situation feels a little glaring.
- As a footnote to that last point, I'm not exactly losing sleep over that -- the other remaining teams have holes as well. At least we're not actually icing a pylon on skates in a playoff game.
- Don't let Dale Weise run Tuukka Rask, please, guys. And no, I'm not calling for retaliation, I'm calling for pushing the guy who's headed in on your star goalie out of the way next time.
- After some ado was made about the Chris Rooney/Tim Peel combo and their penalty-happy ways early in the series, it was referees Eric Furlatt and Wes McCauley who called 11 penalties in today's game. 5 on the Habs, 6 on the Bruins (two of those being Brad Marchand and Gallagher off-setting each other).
- The Habs scratched Daniel Briere in favor of Brandon Prust. I honestly did not notice Prust once all game, but maybe that's because the Bruins-Habs scuffles haven't escalated into a fight in awhile.
- The Bruins are good, the Habs are not as good.
- Playing well in the first period is way better than whatever the heck was going on before.
These teams will be back at it at the Bell Centre on Monday night at 7:30 PM, as the Bruins will have their first chance to clinch the series.