Bruins rookie phenom Torey Krug netted his fourth goal of the playoffs, Gregory Campbell of the vaunted fourth line scored twice, goaltender Tuukka Rask rebounded from his performance in Game 4 to stop 28 shots, and the Bruins sealed the deal at home, beating the New York Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 on Saturday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bruins will now take on the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. The Bruins are back in the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2011, when they won their sixth Stanley Cup after beating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
“Yeah, it’s a great feeling,” Krug said about becoming a major contributor so quickly. “I’m glad we closed it out tonight in front of a great crowd. It was so loud in there I could barely hear myself think sometimes. It was a great experience.”
Krug’s confidence continues to grow as he gets more experience, and has more postseason success.
“It’s pretty high,” Krug said of his confidence level right now. “It’s a good feeling out there, and the more the coaching staff puts me out on the ice, the better I feel. It’s a great feeling when your teammates are coming up to you, patting you on the back, and all the credit in the world to everyone.”
Dan Girardi got the Rangers on the scoreboard first on a power play with 9:21 left in first period but Krug followed up with his fourth goal of the series for Boston 3:48 into the second period on a Bruins power play. It was the red-hot rookie defenseman’s fourth goal of the series and postseason. They are the most by a Boston rookie defenseman since Glen Wesley had six in 23 games in the 1998 postseason.
“I saw Segs [Tyler Seguin] had the puck up top,” Krug said on the goal. “I just tried to get out there. I just hopped onto the ice from the bench and just tried to get open in position to get my shot through. When I take one-timers, I just try to make the goalie make a save with his hands, and fortunately it went in.”
Ten minutes later, Campbell broke a 1-1 tie in the second period when Daniel Paille fired the puck toward Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and Shawn Thornton knocked the rebound to Campbell, who banged it in for the go-ahead goal.
“The play started with Piesy [Daniel Paille] having the poise to make a good play in the neutral zone and hold onto that puck, and he really used his speed and his strength to carry it in, not just chip it in, but to carry it in and realize that Thorty [Shawn Thornton] was driving and trying to make a play, and I just caught the garbage there,” Campbell said.
Just like in Game 3, it was the fourth line that put the pressure on the Rangers, and put the puck in the net.
“The guys did a good job,” Thornton said. “Everyone was going. It was a hard fought game though, give them credit, they played really hard too. I think the guys did a lot of little things properly, get pucks in, get pucks deep. We had a lot of zone time, that was key to a little bit of our success.”
Thornton also dropped the gloves against the Rangers’ Derek Dorsett, taking the Rangers winger down with a TKO in the first period.
“Chalk it up to many coffees, I guess,” Thornton said on what ticked him off before the fight. “It’s over now. The series is over. I’m not going to be that guy afterwards to talk about it. So, I thought he was trying to take liberties on my linemate. I wasn’t okay with that, and that’s the end of it. We were both upset at the end so, you’re right doesn’t happen too often, but a little wound up tonight, I guess.”
The Rangers had a great opportunity to tie the score with just under 10 minutes left in the third period. Ryan Callahan came up the middle on a breakaway and tried to go left and beat Rask with a backhand shot, but Rask made the stop of the night.
“Well, our goalie coach told me after, I think it was Game 1 when he scored on that breakaway, that he never goes backhand,” Rask said. “So I was banking on him shooting and keeping it on the forehand. But he went backhand, and I just extended my leg and blocker there and made the save.”
Rask took a bit of a beating in Boston for his performance in Game 4, but he was glad to put that behind him with a win in Game 5.
“You go into the third period with a 2-1 lead. And as I said, as a goalie you expect to make one or two big saves, and today it happened,” Rask said. “I didn’t feel bad about myself after Game 4, obviously there was a little screw-up there with that goal. But I didn’t let that bother me, and I felt like I played a decent game after that. Coming in today I just wanted to big rock solid back there, and give our team a chance to win the game.”
Campbell added an empty-net goal with 51 seconds left after Lundqvist was pulled for an extra skater and the Bruins closed it out to get some much needed rest before heading to Pittsburgh next week.
“I think it’s huge,” Rask said on finishing off the Rangers in five games. “We definitely didn’t want to go back to New York. We felt like we should have finished the series off last game, but we didn’t play good enough. And then coming home for Game 5 we just wanted to play a real solid game and finish things off. And it’s big to get a couple of days off and get some rest for the guys.”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara talked about how good it felt to rebound after the disappointing Game 4 loss.
“Well, the beginning didn’t go very good for us,” Chara said. They come out hard and they put a lot of pressure on us. We made some mistakes and obviously they got rewarded by a power-play goal, but then we had to probably calm things down after the first, and just start focusing on our game and what we want to do on the ice, and I think it was a really even game. They played a very good game and it was a big challenge the whole game, and it was a one-goal game until we scored again tonight.”
The Bruins defense was bolstered by the return of Dennis Seidenberg, who played for the first time since suffering a leg injury in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.
“I felt pretty good,” Seidenberg said on his return. “I felt comfortable moving the puck. My gaps, my timing was fine, I think. I just can only get better now. ”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was happy to be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals. He spoke about the criticism he receives at times in Boston.
“I think when it comes to that stuff, I know what Boston is all about,” Julien said. “They like their championship teams, they want to win every year; it’s a very demanding place. But at the same time, it’s a place where you want to be. I enjoy it here. If it means taking some criticism, there’s no problem there, because that comes with the territory. As a coach, you do what you have to do and you take the criticism that comes with it. The one thing you don’t do is dwell on that stuff because you try and avoid it. I know it’s out there, but the biggest thing I do is I kind of stay away from all that stuff and really focus on my job. But I know for a fact that when you win around here you can’t ask for a better place. I’d rather be in a city that’s demanding and loves their team and their sports, than being somewhere where nobody cares. I’m willing to live with that.”
As for the next series, Bruins power forward Milan Lucic put the heat on the Penguins. Literally.
“No doubt they’re a great hockey club,” Lucic said of mighty Pittsburgh. “In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power. Probably the two best players in the world (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin); a 40-goal scorer (James Neal); a former 50-goal scorer and future Hall of Famer (Jarome Iginla); and a Norris Trophy candidate (Kris Letang) on their team. So they definitely have a lot of weapons.”