BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have a chance now to see what all the fuss is about -- and an opportunity to put an end to it. They're going to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins put to rest any talk about another meltdown by eliminating the New York Rangers on Saturday at TD Garden with a 3-1 victory in Game 5 of the conference semifinals. They've now won five of their past six games going back to that magical and historic comeback win in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Gregory Campbell scored twice Saturday, including an empty-netter with less than a minute left, and Torey Krug scored his fourth goal in five Stanley Cup Playoff games. Tuukka Rask made it hold up with 28 saves, including a lead-saving stop on Ryan Callahan's breakaway in the third period, as the Bruins landed a date with the Penguins, who also needed five games to dispatch the Ottawa Senators.
Pittsburgh scored 13 goals in its last two games against Ottawa and 21 over its four wins in the conference semifinals.
"In my mind, they're almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power that they've got," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said of the Penguins. "Probably the two best players in the world, a 40-goal scorer, a former 50-goal scorer, future Hall of Famer, and a Norris Trophy candidate are on their team. They definitely have a lot of weapons.
"In saying all of that, I think what makes them successful is they play real well as a team and that's what you're going to see going into this next series -- two well-rounded teams going at it."
The Bruins showed how well-rounded they are against the Rangers.
They had nine different goal-scorers in the series, but only three are featured in their group of top-six forwards. The Bruins got seven goals from their blue line, including the four from Krug and two more from Johnny Boychuk, who scored the game-winner in Game 2. Their fourth line contributed with four goals, including game-winners from Campbell and Daniel Paille.
Boston's fourth line actually had as many goals as its top-two lines combined.
"I'd have to say that we probably played with fire in the first round and almost got burned," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Having said that, we know that the first round is always one of the toughest to get through, but we built some momentum from that last game and we had to be better against the Rangers. We were fortunate to have everybody going. The only way we could beat this Rangers team was to have everybody going."
New York did not have everybody going, not even close.
Sure, the Rangers got goals from nine different players as well, but nobody had more than Derek Stepan's two. New York's blue line was outscored by Boston's blue line, 7-2. Its fourth line -- revamped to be grittier after Game 3 -- was shut out.
In fact, that fourth line of Kris Newbury, Micheal Haley and Derek Dorsett, plus the Rangers' third defense pairing of Roman Hamrlik and Steve Eminger, were victimized by the Bruins' fourth line on the game-winning goal with 6:19 to play in the second period.
"Some games, the way we contribute is different than the way we contributed [Saturday night]," said Campbell, who scored the winner. "Not every game are we going to put the puck in the net, but it has to be in some fashion that we contribute as a line. Against a team like the Rangers, who are pretty solid, we really had to rely on our depth and we knew we had to play a role."
The fact that Boston had to use three rookie defensemen for the first four games before getting Dennis Seidenberg back for Game 5 could have been a crutch that tilted the edge to the Rangers. Instead, it played heavily into the Bruins' favor because of Krug, who scored three of his goals on the power play and became the first rookie defenseman in the post-expansion era to score four goals in his first five career playoff games.
Krug, who tied the game Saturday with a power-play goal 3:48 into the second period, was playing in the American Hockey League up until two days before the conference semifinals began. Now, he's the toast of Boston.
"You always hope that guys can come in and help your team out, and no doubt he was magic for us in this series," Julien said of Krug. "To score that many goals and to show the confidence that he showed in playing in this series was pretty outstanding. He's a player that we've always felt good about in our organization and he's shown what he's all about. Ice in his veins, that's what he's got."
The Rangers' best player all series was goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves on Saturday, including several showstoppers, to finish the playoffs with a 2.14 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
New York's problem was its lack of depth. As a result, the Rangers had very little in the way of an answer for when Boston surged.
That much was evident in overtime of Game 1. It never really changed, even though the Rangers won Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't think we got to the level that we needed to," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think they're a deeper team than we are, so we needed to play at a different level. We needed to get a number of different things from different players more consistently.
"They deserved to win. They were the better team. They deserved to win."
And now the Bruins get a chance to see what everybody around the NHL is talking about. They get a chance to get up close and personal with the Penguins and play for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final.
It's been 21 years since Boston and Pittsburgh met in the postseason. At that time, Boston right wing Jaromir Jagr was a mullet-wearing, fast-driving, goal-scoring machine for the Penguins, who swept the Bruins in the Wales Conference Finals en route to winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship.
Boston also lost to Pittsburgh, 4-2, in the 1991 conference finals.
Of note for now is how the Penguins owned the Bruins in the regular season, winning all three games by one goal.
"We've all watched Pittsburgh play, we've played against them enough and we've got a lot of respect for that team," Campbell said. "They have four really good lines, guys that contribute and they get scoring from every line. They're not too far removed from winning the Stanley Cup and they know how to win."
Campbell could have said all of that about his own team, too.
"I think it'll be a great matchup," he said. "We're going to have to be good."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
|PPG - Dan Girardi (2) ASST: Mats Zuccarello (6), Brian Boyle (2)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Torey Krug (4) ASST: Tyler Seguin (3), Brad Marchand (7)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Gregory Campbell (2) ASST: Shawn Thornton (3), Daniel Paille (3)|
2 - 1 BOS
|EN - Gregory Campbell (3) ASST: Nathan Horton (7)|
3 - 1 BOS
|Shawn Thornton Unsportsmanlike conduct against Derek Dorsett|
|Shawn Thornton Fighting (maj) against Derek Dorsett|
|Derek Dorsett Unsportsmanlike conduct against Shawn Thornton|
|Derek Dorsett Fighting (maj) against Shawn Thornton|
|David Krejci Cross checking against Dan Girardi|
|Mats Zuccarello Hooking against Tyler Seguin|
|Matt Bartkowski Tripping against Carl Hagelin|
|Derek Dorsett Slashing against Jaromir Jagr|
|Derek Dorsett Tripping against Milan Lucic|