BOSTON -- It took the Boston Bruins 95 minutes, 19 seconds to get the job done Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Now that they have a 3-0 series lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, what's their reward?
They get to regroup and try again to beat the East's top seed and the NHL's best offense and power play. Only this time, a Boston victory would result in a second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in three years.
"It's definitely uplifting to win," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said Thursday. "It was just, the physical toll, I'm sure it was hard on everybody's body to play five periods; but you've got to do the right thing [Thursday], hydrate and take care of your body, because [Friday] is going to be a battle again."
The Bruins, who returned to the site of their latest dramatic victory at TD Garden for some off-ice work and meetings, had six players log career-high minute totals in Game 3. One would expect defensemen Dennis Seidenberg (39:54) and Torey Krug (35:46) to see their ice time increased. But forwards David Krejci (35:46), Brad Marchand (32:01), Patrice Bergeron (31:59) and Milan Lucic (30:12) all logged ice unheard of with the Bruins, who always roll four lines.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara added to his League-best postseason minutes average (among players who have advanced past the first round) with 42:05, the most he's skated since 2002. Forward Jaromir Jagr's 26:35 of ice time was the most he's skated in an NHL game since 2007.
It'll be a challenge for the players to recuperate and for the coaching and training staffs to get the Bruins in the best possible shape to face the Penguins in Game 4 on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"You do the best you can as far as psychologically," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We have a talk with those guys and make sure they get their rest. We address things from [Game 3]. That's why we have a training staff, to take care of the bodies and of their recovery part of it as well.
"I mean, there's two teams that have to feel the same way. When you look at Pittsburgh, they worked just as hard as we did [in Game 3] and maybe even harder. But it's one of those things that this is a tough sport, and when you look at a game like [Game 3], you really learn to appreciate the athletes. We finished today, and to come back right the next day and be ready and willing to do it all over again [Friday] is pretty impressive. I think hockey players deserve a lot of credit for their conditioning, their commitment and everything else that goes with it."
Boychuk said he would be drinking a lot of water all day. Seidenberg said he rode the stationary bike and stretched and he'd spend the rest of the day off taking it easy. Those are things Seidenberg typically would do the day after any game when there wasn't a back-to-back situation, but it's a little different this time around, "because you didn't get quite as much sleep as you'd like."
The Bruins are going to need as much rest as possible so they can correct some of their flaws from Game 3 and be ready for what figures to be the desperate Penguins' best push. Unlike the first two games, when the Bruins outscored Pittsburgh 9-1, Boston was sloppy with the puck and allowed many more scoring chances, both with giveaways in their end and on the attack. Goalie Tuukka Rask had to bail out his teammates with a career-high 53 saves. The Bruins weren't as disciplined as they needed to be, evidenced by the six penalties they had to kill.
That the Bruins were less than their best and prevailed was a bonus. But experience has taught Boston it can't expect to produce the same result with the same type of performance if it wants to win an elimination game. Its recent history in elimination opportunities is well-documented, from the collapse from 3-0 up on the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 conference semifinals to the three Game 7 victories during the run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2011 to the first-round this year against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when the Bruins had to rally to win Game 7 after leading the series 3-1. Through all the ups and downs, the Bruins' veteran core that's been together for several seasons has benefited from experience.
"It always helps you keep your feet on the ground and to not get carried away with wins like we had [in Game 3]," Julien said. "It's a cliché now that the fourth game is the toughest to win, but it's something we learned and it's something we remember."
This postseason has the Bruins compiling a 2-3 record in elimination games.
"It helps that we're up 3-0, but you have to take each game as it comes," Boychuk said. "It's hard to close out a series, and especially against these guys. We know that they're going to be coming hard and they're going to be putting everything on the line. We wouldn't expect anything less."
Seidenberg said, "You just have to have that killer instinct and forget about what happened in the past or in the past three games and just focus on that one game. And whenever we play in the moment, we play our best hockey."