TORONTO – David Krejci was the star of the night. But when it came to talking about his hat trick, he wasn't taking all the credit.
Krejci scored three goals Wednesday, including the overtime winner at 13:06 , and Tuukka Rask made 45 saves to give the Boston Bruins a commanding 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game 4 is Friday in Boston.
"Honestly, it's nice," Krejci said of his three-goal effort that gives him an impressive five goals and 10 points in four games. "On the first goal, I just went to the net and I don't know if it hit me or not. I went hard to the net and then saw the puck lying in the net. On the other two goals, it was [Nathan] Horton making two huge plays. On one, he set me up for a one-timer and on the overtime goal, he took a huge hit to make a play. It was all him."
Patrice Bergeron had the other Boston goal. The Maple Leafs held a 2-0 lead on goals by Joffrey Lupul and Cody Franson, but the Bruins scored three unanswered goals in the second period to take the lead.
While the Maple Leafs are in the postseason for the first time in nine years and don't have nearly the experience of the Bruins (who won the Stanley Cup two seasons ago), they were full marks for their effort in Game 4. In fact, when the game got to overtime, Toronto generated most of the quality scoring chances and hit two goal posts.
Krejci felt his team's experience came in handy.
"We know we have so much experience on this team, but it's how you use that experience that is important," Krejci said. "I think we used it well tonight, but Tuukka also made some great saves. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have even been in overtime."
If Krejci is an underrated player in the NHL, he certainly is not in Boston, where the Bruins and their fans value all he brings to the table.
"David, tonight, certainly was the guy who was shining," said Boston coach Claude Julien. "He was on top of his game and he has been a really good playoff performer for years for us. There are players who thrive on playoff hockey, and he's one of those guys. We know he's a great playmaker and skilled player, but the other part of his game is he doesn't shy away from traffic and he doesn't shy away a physical game. He's very gritty when he needs to be gritty. If he has one weakness, it's that he is very hard on himself when things aren't going well."
In a wide-open overtime, the Maple Leafs outshot the Bruins 14-11 to go with their two posts. In such circumstances, some coaches might feel it is just a matter of time before their team scores the game-winner. But not Toronto's Randy Carlyle.
"I've been around this game a long time and it seems that doesn't really matter in overtime," Carlyle said. "It's one bounce, one shot, one rebound, one deflection, one fluky bounce in an arena, one block; it's all the ones that go against you and you can't afford to make mistakes that lead to odd-man rushes. We turned the puck over in the corner and then we pinched and gave them an odd-man rush and they scored a short-side goal to beat us. It feels like a dagger after the effort that was put forth by our group.
"It was a man's hockey game out there, with a lot of energy and a lot of physical play. That's the way the playoffs are played. We just have to find a way to bottle the positives we put forth in tonight's game and bring that for Friday in Boston."
The Maple Leafs now face the very tough task of trying to win three games in a row against a team that bends, but rarely breaks. Lupul, who led the Maple Leafs with nine shots on goal, believes his team did just about everything it could to win and that alone leaves the players feeling frustrated.
"We worked hard and left everything out there," Lupul said. "It really felt like we were putting a lot of pressure on the Bruins and to be honest, on the bench it felt like it was just a matter of time before we got one. Obviously it hurts a lot, but we did a lot of things right and the series isn't over. We feel like we are playing better and better. We'll be ready to go in Game 5."
Traditionally, the Maple Leafs talk about putting all games – wins and losses – behind them as quickly as possible. This time, though, they'll probably remember some of the good things they do for motivation in a do-or-die situation.
"We have said every game that we have to shift focus and be ready to go for the next game," Lupul said. "You want to take some positives from this game. The big thing is they're an experienced team and they don't want to come back here again. They'll throw it all at us and we have to be ready for that."
Clarke MacArthur scored the other Toronto goal at 17:23 of the third period to force overtime.
Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser took a slap shot to the forehead at 7:49 of the third period and was cut badly. He was taken to the hospital for a CT scan. There was no immediate word on the results.