You could see it coming, the flurry of shots from the Pittsburgh Penguins that built throughout the course of Game 3 Wednesday night. After David Krejci netted another early Boston score just 1:42 into the game, the Eastern Conference’s best team during the regular season began to assert its dominance.
Pittsburgh tied the score on Chris Kunitz’s fifth goal of the playoffs in the second period, then peppered Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask in the third. Evgeni Malkin hit the crossbar, one of 14 shots on goal in the period for Pittsburgh to Boston’s four (at one point in the period the Bruins went 7 1/2 minutes without a shot), The shots were 39-25 at the end of regulation (70-44 including blocks and misses), and for the first time all series the Penguins looked like the better team.
“I thought the first three periods we weren’t as good as we could have been,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We gave guys like [Sidney] Crosby and Malkin some chances. Eventually a team like that is going to play a little bit better.”
The Bruins absorbed Pittsburgh’s onslaught and went on to win, 2-1, in a thrilling double-overtime game in large part due to Rask. The goalie kept his team in it despite the fact that “our battle wasn’t up tonight,” according to the coach. Rask stopped 53 shots as regulation turned into one, then two overtime periods, and as players from both teams appeared visibly gassed.
Asked afterward if he was tired, Rask replied, “It’s past my bedtime.”
A long game didn’t seem like it was in the cards early. Boston quickly got to Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun. With Milan Lucic doing his best Kevin McHale impression posting up in the crease, David Krejci found Vokoun’s five-hole to put the Bruins up, 1-0. A short time later the TD Garden crowd gave Vokoun a mocking cheer for gloving his first save. It looked like another rout could be on.
Faceoffs where the Penguins began to see gains. Pittsburgh players won 61 percent of the players they took in Game 3, controlling puck possession for long stretches. Five power players also helped that cause despite the fact that the Penguins failed to score on any of them. With seven minutes remaining in the second period and the Penguins on the power play, Bruins center Gregory Campbell took a puck off what appeared to be his lower leg. Campbell could barely stand but completed his shift, willing himself upright for almost a minute as the Bruins killed off the penalty. Campbell earned a standing ovation, limping into the tunnel to chants of “Campbell, Campbell.”
“He’s a man that does whatever the team needs, and he’s willing to sacrifice his body,” Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said afterward. “So this one for sure is for him.”
While the Bruins were banged up in the last two periods of regulation, they seemed to find new life in overtime.
“We corrected a few things and started playing better,” said center Chris Kelly.
One of those corrections involved getting better spacing on offense. While the Penguins continued to get shots, the Bruins began to develop chances of their own. Sometimes-hero Nathan Horton dinged the crossbar with 12 minutes left in the first overtime. The much-discussed Jaromir Jagr gave the Bruins three of their best chances in the second overtime. The last chance led to the game’s eventual winner.
“He’s got that experience to always be in the right place on the ice,” Patrice Bergon said of Jagr.
With fewer than five minutes remaining in OT No. 2, Jagr fed the puck ahead to Brad Marchand, who found Bergeron cutting to the net. Bergeron was able to get his stick down and deflect the puck past Vokoun for the goal.
“First of all a great play by Jags to dig that puck on the wall there, fighting and getting that loose puck to Marsh” said Bergeron. “And me and him have that chemistry. We know where we’re going on the ice. He was going to try to find me there. I just went to the net and tried to have my stick on the ice and he found me.”
If they’re confident in their 3-0 lead, the Bruins aren’t admitting to it.
“We’re obviously happy about the situation, but by no means is this series over,” said Marchand. “We have a lot of work to do. They’re going to come out even better in the next game, and we know that and have to be prepared.”
The Bruins may not be planning a trip to the Finals just yet, but they’re planning a little extra sleep. Practice on Thursday will begin at noon.