After splitting overtime thrillers in the first two games, the Bruins sent their fans to bed without worry Monday night with a tidy 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Deflections and dented posts were the story of the two games in Chicago, but in the series' TD Garden debut, the Bruins took a two-goal lead into the third period and never relinquished it. Boston now leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
"We're playing our best hockey of the season right now," Bruins coach Claude Julien said afterward. "And that's what you've got to do to win the Stanley Cup."
There were dueling rainbows over the arena just before faceoff, but the home team didn't lean on any kind of luck against their opponents Monday. The Bruins had the edge in just about every statistical category, topping Chicago in shots (35 to 28), power play conversions (1 of 4 vs. 0 of5), hits (31 to 25) and faceoffs (40 to 16). Many of Chicago's shots came from just inside the blue line. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask credited his defense for not allowing the Blackhawks to establish position in front of the net.
"They had shots but most of them came from the outside," said Rask. "We eliminated a lot of their rebound opportunities."
Rask faced 28 shots and recorded his third shutout of the playoffs.
"He's been focused since day one of the playoffs," said Julien. " You watch him on off days, you watch him, he's quiet, focused, calm. Right now all his energy is put towards his game.
"I've never seen a guy so calm, obviously confident with the way he's played. Probably quietest I've seen him so far, but in a good way. "
It looked like the Bruins might be in trouble in the first period when the fourth line picked up two early penalties. Kaspars Daugavins went high on Andrew Shaw and earned a roughing penalty at the 9:57 mark, and Shawn Thornton got called for roughing a few minutes later for scuffling with Shaw after a play. But Chicago failed to record a shot on the first power play and failed to convert on either.
"Our power play tonight was definitely not good," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenville, whose team is 0 for 11 on the power play in the series.
Bruins penalty killer Chris Kelly, who has struggled all postseason but had a goal in Game 2 as part of a revamped third line, helped put the Bruins on the board first. Kelly's strong forecheck freed the puck up for Danielle Paille's goal at the 17:47 mark in the first period. The goal followed Paille's game-winner Saturday night and made it three straight goals for the Paille-Kelly-Tyler Seguin line. That line is responsible for seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in the past two games.
"They skated hard, kept the game simple," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "That's what you want from guys that haven't played with each other. It's about playing basic hockey, getting pucks deep, forechecking, getting pucks to the net. They've done a good job working as a unit and communicating out there."
For their second goal, the Bruins capitalized on a 5-on-3 power player after penalties to Chicago's Dave Bolland and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the second period. Zdeno Chara cycled the puck to Jaromir Jagr on the left side of the net, who shuffled it over to Patrice Bergeron on the other side for a wrister and a 2-0 lead at the 14:05 mark. The goal was Bergeron's seventh of the playoffs, the most he's scored in a single postseason, surpassing the six goals he scored in 2011.
"He's one of the most consistent players I've ever played with," said Seguin.
It was Jagr's 8th assist and Chara's 10th. Chara received stitches before the game after colliding with teammate Milan Lucic. Chara skated to the locker room to get stitched up but returned in time for the start of the game.
"He slipped and he had a little gash over his eye I guess," said Julien. "It's nothing serious."
Seidenberg, who was awarded the Army Ranger jacket after the game, blamed Chara's injury on poor ice conditions. "He just lost an edge and fell," he said.
The Blackhawks were without Marian Hossa, who was seen on the ice during warm-ups but was a late scratch for Game 3. Quenville said afterward that Hossa has an upper-body injury that was not sustained during warmups. His status for Game 4 is unknown.
"We'll say day-to-day," said Quenville. "It was a game-time decision after the warmup there, and that's why we made the call."
Without Hossa's stellar two-way play, Chicago didn't present much of a challenge. Bruins fans might have liked the lack of drama, but Rask said it didn't matter either way.
"It's better I guess," said Rask. "A win is a win. We'll take a win any day."