At least one unit proved to be special
Special teams, the units that take the ice when a hockey team is a man up, or a man down, are never more crucial than in intense playoff games. But there’s nothing special about the Bruins’ power play, which added an 0-for-4 effort to its playoff run last night in a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The teams return to Tampa for Game 6 tomorrow with the Bruins owning a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bruins’ power play now stands at 4 for 56 in the postseason. That’s a lot of standing around, and that’s a dreadful 7.1 percent.
On the other hand, the Bruins’ penalty kill is something special. The Bruins were 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, holding off the Bolts’ power play, which came into the game ranked fourth in the postseason at 23.7 percent.
“Our penalty killing unit did a great job tonight,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “For us coming into the playoffs special teams was a big concern. Right now we’re probably even.’’
After a listless first period in which they were outshot, 14-4, and outscored, 1-0, the Bruins were saddled with back-to-back penalties by Nathan Horton. The Bruins opened the second period on the penalty kill, with 1:10 remaining on an interference call to Horton. They killed that, and then Horton was snagged again for interference, at 2:07 of the second.
They killed that one, too.
“That was huge,’’ said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s one of the reasons why we won the game, the way we killed those penalties.’’
Penalty killers Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell nearly turned the kill into a goal early in the second. Breaking out of their defensive zone, Paille dashed down the right wing at 2:45, with Martin St. Louis chasing him. He tried a spin move, but never got the shot off.
“I lost the puck,’’ Paille said. “I was hoping . . . but I didn’t feel I had that clear of a shot with St. Louis bearing down on me, so I thought I’d try something new. It didn’t work.’’
Nonetheless, two minutes later when Horton got the Bruins’ first goal, a one-timer off a feed from Milan Lucic at 4:24. The game began moving faster.
“When you’re killing, you definitely have to move your feet,’’ said Chris Kelly, another member of the PK elite. “You can’t be caught standing still. And we got a few penalties in a row there, I think we did a good job killing them and not giving them too much momentum. It kind of gave us some momentum — Horty had a big goal when he came out of the box.’’
Paille only had 5:10 of ice time in the game, but his contribution was weighty.
“Our main focus [on the penalty kill] is to just pressure and forecheck, and try and create some confusion on their power play,’’ said Paille. “I find that we’ve been doing that over the series, and it’s nice to see.’’
The Bruins ended the game in a man-down situation, with Lightning goalie Mike Smith pulled for an extra attacker and the Bruins clinging to a one-goal lead they had protected since Brad Marchand scored at 15:56 of the second period.
“It was nerve-racking,’’ said Marchand. “Every time they got the puck, guys were on edge and every time we got it, we were just yelling chip it out.’’
In the final minute, Kelly and Rich Peverley went to work, keeping the Lightning from getting control of the puck for 20 long seconds. When Tampa Bay finally gained the zone, Peverley blocked a shot that sent the puck out of the zone. Kelly chased it down and fed Peverley for a well-deserved empty-net goal.
“This is a guy who deserved the ice time he got tonight,’’ Julien said of Peverley’s 14 minutes of action. “On the penalty kill, we used him on faceoffs, we use him in different places. He served us really well tonight.’’