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The Boston Bruins merely survived the first three periods of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals. But they found their second wind during both overtime sessions.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad was outshot 29-24 through the first 60 minutes. Their power play looked off again. They self-inflicted with a handful of turnovers in the defensive end.
Yet, after some close calls late in the third, the Bruins persevered. They eventually evened things off on — of all things — a power-play marker by Brad Marchand. Their relentless pressure on Ilya Samsonov eventually paid off as Craig Smith caught a break and wrapped home the fifth-period winner to give Boston the 3-2 triumph.
“Every game has been close and it could go either way,” Cassidy said after the Bruins claimed the 2-1 series lead. “We got fortunate that they hit a couple of pipes. That’s been our story all year — we’ve hit a lot of pipes. But I thought in overtime those breaks balanced out and we had a lot of good looks, and obviously we got a break in the end.”
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins earned a break to cap off the double-overtime thriller.
In the blink of an eye, a struggling David Pastrnak found himself all alone on a breakaway attempt in the second overtime session. As he prepared to deliver a shot on Samsonov, Brendan Dillon and T.J. Oshie collectively took him down in the last minute, preventing the Bruins from netting the winner. Pastrnak collided violently into the boards but skated off under his own power after a stoppage in play.
Cassidy “absolutely” believed the uncalled infraction was worthy of a penalty shot or minor penalty. Instead, the Bruins and Caps remained at 5v5 even after a post-whistle altercation between Dillon and Marchand.
“I thought two sticks got on them and one clearly affected his shot,” Cassidy said. “Listen, I know it’s a tough job and it’s overtime, and you want to make sure of it. But to me, I felt those are the calls that you have to make, right? If the guy is in all alone, it’s a goal-scoring chance — an obvious one. I thought they missed that one, obviously they didn’t feel the same way … good to see our guys play through it.”
The Bruins quickly put the non-call behind them. The Caps fell asleep at the absolute worst time after Samsonov left the puck behind the net. Ever opportunistic, Smith beat Justin Schultz to the loose puck and capped off another thrilling win with a Superman celebration.
“That’s playoff hockey,” Smith said. “But I think our group is just focused on the next play and trying to stay within each other. Obviously, every game is just a different story, and we have to continue to keep moving forward and [have] a next shift mentality. And that’s kind of where we’re at in laying things out, and we’ll deal with the rest as it comes.”
Smith’s winner clinched Boston’s second victory of the season. The replay will likely find itself among some of the Not Top 10 lists on SportsCenter. But another tally from one of Smith’s fellow linemates will make its way into a montage of the year’s top goals.
Boston goalie coach Bob Essensa often finds himself assisting Tuukka Rask, Jeremy Swayaman and Jaroslav Halak with their techniques. His insight, however, goes beyond goaltending improvements.
Hall will take advice from anyone who wants to help him fine-tune his game. The veteran winger engaged in a chat with Essensa in the hours leading up to Game 3. A specific talking point he received from Essensa centered on pulling the puck around an opposing goalie and shooting quickly.
That feedback resonated with Hall as the Caps trotted out their third different goaltender this series. With his back turned toward Samsonov following a feed from Krejci, Hall circled back with the puck on his stick around the Caps netminder and promptly went top shelf for the first-period equalizer.
“Our goalie coach Bob Essensa skated by me at morning skate today and made a comment on a shot I had last game, that I probably could’ve pulled it around [the goalie] instead of just shooting 5-hole quick. So that was kind of on my mind as the day went on,” Hall said of the advice he received from ‘Goalie Bob.’ “There are times in games where you want to get it on net quickly and you want to surprise the goalie. But there are also times where, if you can make a play around him, then that’s what you can do as well.”
Through three periods, the Caps D provided the Bruins little room to work with. In the rare instance where he had space against a heavy Washington bunch, a confident Hall took advantage and kept his team afloat amidst a tough 60 minutes.
The Bruins and Capitals combined for 117 hits in Game 3. The total would’ve gone much higher if the league counted all moments of contact after the whistle.
On a night where he tied the legendary Gerry Cheevers for most postseason wins in Bruins history, Rask found himself in the center of one of those post-whistle scrums. In his feisty moment, a helmetless Rask delivered a right jab to Garnet Hathaway following a second-period collision.
In a tightly officiated contest, the referees declined to assess Hathaway or Rask with a minor penalty. Yet, Rask merely saw the sequence as one of protection.
“Just protecting myself,” Rask said of the incident with Hathaway. “I’m not surprised there wasn’t a penalty. It’s going to take a lot for them to call anything, so I figured I let him know if he comes close that maybe I gave him a couple too many [punches]. I don’t know if that’s what the ref thought.”
When he didn’t deliver jabs, Rask provided the Bruins with timely saves throughout regulation. Both of Washington’s goals came off turnovers, with Alex Ovechkin walking in alone on a power-play attempt and Nic Dowd tipping home his second tally of the series off a Pastrnak cough up at the blue-line.
The Bruins relieved Rask throughout overtime, outshooting the Caps 19-8 in 25:48 of sudden death hockey. And now, their all-time winningest netminder in the regular season sits a win away from the top of the postseason victory list.
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