Commentary

Bruins finally playing with edge

In Game 3, Boston started showing some fire and gained series lead

Updated: April 17, 2012, 9:06 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins finally played their style of hockey in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, and as a result they skated away with a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night at Verizon Center.

The Bruins showed emotion. They pushed back and won the battles, and because they played Bruins hockey, they now have a 2-1 advantage in the series.

The teams will have two days off before Game 4 here Thursday.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Paille
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesDaniel Paille was thrilled that the Bruins played with more emotion Monday at Washington.

"We showed a lot more emotion tonight," said forward Daniel Paille, who scored Boston's second goal. "That goes a long way in a series. We made a big step and I think we should look forward to that for Thursday."

In the first two games of the series, the Capitals controlled much of the pace and kept the Bruins in check. Since the teams play only four times a season, there's not much familiarity, so it's natural that as the series progresses a rivalry is born.

"We kept on battling back and found a way to win," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "It's going to be a good series. I was happy with the way everyone showed up tonight and that wasn't the case in the previous game. So I was happy with the effort from everybody, and that's key."

In Games 1 and 2 in Boston, the Bruins had trouble figuring out Washington's rookie goaltender, Braden Holtby, and were able to score a total of just two goals. On Monday, the Bruins were able to get more traffic in front of the 22-year-old netminder and made his job a lot tougher.

With the Bruins searching for offense, coach Claude Julien decided early in the game to switch his top centermen. Patrice Bergeron was shifted to the top line along with Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley, while David Krejci was put in the middle between Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.

"Every once in a while you've got to change your lines around a little bit, and it was done without them even knowing it," Julien said. "Sometimes you just do what you've got to do and players react better to it. We made that change, and had it not worked the way I wanted it, I would have gone back to the other line combinations. But I just tried to get different looks that would allow them to refresh some of those guys so they could find their game.

"I thought Lucic was a better player and Peverley was a better player and those other two guys are coming along. Overall, we got the right results, and we're going to keep moving forward with trying to get the best combinations possible."

After Boston's 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 2, Julien made it a point to cite the team's lack of success along the boards and in the corners. The coach was pleased with the effort after Game 3.

"As the game progressed, I felt our team getting better, especially in the second period. Our forecheck started becoming a little more efficient for us and we just kept going from there," Julien said. "It's important in playoffs that you win battles and you come up with the puck as much as you can, and our guys were better at it tonight than we were in the first couple of games. It still made for a close tilt, and we don't expect any different going forward."

Last spring, the Bruins' Tim Thomas proved how incredible goaltending can help a team win the Stanley Cup. He made one of his vintage game-changing saves in Game 3 on Monday night.

With 2:21 remaining in the second period and the game knotted at 2-2, Washington engaged in a solid forecheck when Jay Beagle had a point-blank chance from the slot, but Thomas quickly closed the five-hole and stifled the golden opportunity.

"I was on my toes at that point," Thomas said. "Sometimes you might not see it, but I saw that one coming.

"When we had gone up 2-1, they came back and scored 13 seconds later, so after it was 2-2 I was really on my toes, looking for any weird bounce or something. I was actually able to follow that play all the way through. I was fortunate I was able to trap it with my pad."

The game ultimately was tied at 3-3 and the Bruins had a power play late in the third period before Milan Lucic was involved in a 3-on-1 scrum and handed a roughing penalty.

Immediately after the game, Julien was asked about Lucic's roughing penalty while the Bruins were on the power play with the game tied.

"I haven't had a chance to review all that stuff, and I don't know what started it," Julien said. "I don't know exactly what happened. All I know, we ended up on the short end of it, but this is playoff hockey and the emotions are going to run high and you need to try to stay in control as best you can. At the end of the day, you look at your team, and we killed it off and we won the hockey game.

"Maybe if I have a better look at it tomorrow, if I need to address it with the players, I will. But I thought our guys did a great job tonight battling, so did they, and that's why it was another close game."

When the final buzzer sounded and the Bruins had their win, the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom two-handed Peverley in the face and was given a match penalty. No doubt this series is becoming more physical and should continue to be that way until one team advances and the other goes home.

"It's getting more emotional," said Zdeno Chara, who scored the winning goal with 1:53 to play. "Players are more involved and it's starting to get more physical, and that's normal throughout the playoffs."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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