NEW YORK — They may never lose another game.
Maybe this is the year. Again. Maybe Dave Goucher’s Game 7 Toronto call of “Bergeron! Bergeron!’’ is destined to go into the Boston sports audio Hall of Fame, alongside Johnny Most’s “Havlicek stole the ball!’’ and Joe Castiglione’s “Can you believe it?”
On the strength of Daniel Paille’s goal with 3:31 remaining, the Bruins beat the Rangers, 2-1, Tuesday night and now hold a 3-0 series lead in their best-of-seven conference semifinal. They have been a rocket sled on Bauer blades since they stared into the face of elimination in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.
Don’t let Tuesday night’s one-goal advantage fool you. The Bruins dominated the Rangers again. The only thing that made this game close was the spectacular play of New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The Bruins are undefeated since they escaped elimination May 13. That was the night it all kicked in. It was “The Miracle On Ice” of the New Millennium. Faced with what appeared to be certain extinction, the Bruins staged the comeback of the ages. They flipped the switch one last time. Claude Julien’s Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde team became a monster that cannot be stopped.
“Since Toronto, no doubt,’’ said Julien when asked about his team’s new charge. “You don’t just see it on the ice. You feel it in the dressing room. This is a very focused group right now. The Jekyll-Hyde thing I haven’t seen since the Toronto series.’’
And now the Bruins are on the threshold of the conference finals and have a real shot at their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Three years ago, with Tuukka Rask in goal, the Bruins had a 3-0 series lead on the Flyers . . . then lost the series. That was then. This is now. There is absolutely no fear of an epic collapse this season. The Bruins seem to have learned their lesson in Game 7 of the Toronto series.
“The Philadelphia series was three years ago,’’ said Julien. “We have to live with that. We still have to live with that.’’
“We haven’t talked about history at all,’’ said the ever-combustible John Tortorella, boss of the Rangers.
The Rangers were relying on their own history going into Game 3. In the first round against the Capitals, New York lost the first two games on the road, but recovered to win four of the last five to advance. But no NHL team ever has won back-to-back series after spotting an opponent the first two games. And it’s not going to happen this year.
The Bruins totally dominated the Rangers in the first two periods Tuesday night, yet trailed, 1-0. Lundqvist was doing the proverbial headstand. It’s clear that he was the Rangers’ only shot going into this series. The Bruins are the better team and have been playing like the better team. Boston is getting production from all four lines. Defensemen are scoring goals. The Bruins are skating harder, hitting harder.
Things changed early in the third when they finally beat Lundqvist on a heavily screened (thank you, Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton) shot by Johnny Boychuk.
We had blood on the ice throughout the final period.
Tyler Seguin got away with a stick to the face of Chris Kreider and Patrice Bergeron was bloodied on a head butt by Steve Eminger. Zdeno Chara was stitched up. Carl Hagelin took a puck to the face.
There was one instance when four Bruins collapsed in front of the net to protect Rask. Hope there’s a photo of that somewhere. It typifies the way the Bruins have been playing for the last eight days.
With 3:31 left, the effort was rewarded when Paille struck, beating his man to a bouncing puck after a wrist shot careened off the mask of Lundqvist.
It would be an exaggeration to say that beating the Rangers has been too easy. The games have been contested. The Bruins trailed briefly in Game 1 and had to go into overtime to emerge with the win. Game 2 was a 2-2 draw before the Bruins shifted into a winning gear and dominated. The Bruins dominated Game 3, but needed two goals in the third to win it.
“This was a good road game,’’ said Julien. “We didn’t care if we had to go into overtime. Our guys from start to finish played extremely well. Everybody is doing a great job making everybody else’s jobs easier. You have to be proud of your team. In the Toronto series, I don’t think we were in the zone we’re in now.’’
They were not. But they are in the zone now. And it feels like they may never lose another game.