BostonBruins.com - The overwhelming storyline heading into Monday night’s Game 3 between the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs was how the two teams would respond to what was predicted to be a raucous crowd at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs fans, taking in their first postseason game since 2004, lived up to the hype. But the Bruins didn’t let the crowd deter them. They answered the call, playing much more like the team that won, handily, Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
The B’s played physical, scored timely goals, and got outstanding goaltending from Tuukka Rask in a 5-2 victory that put them ahead, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series.
Before the game, the Bruins talked about coming out strong and getting off to a good start to quiet the crowd. And that’s what they did.
At 13:42 of the first, Adam McQuaid fired a slapper at the net, beating Leafs goalie James Reimer, for his first career playoff goal and a 1-0 Bruins lead.
“It was a good atmosphere, during the anthem there it was pretty loud,” said McQuaid after the win. “We've played in front of some good crowds before and you try to remind yourself to focus on your own game. At the end of the day, you've got to go out and play hockey. You try to remain focused, but feed off of it as much as you can.”
The building was quieted, especially after Rich Peverley netted his first goal of the postseason, just under six minutes into the second period, to put the Bruins up, 2-0. But Jake Gardiner got the Leafs’ faithful back on their feet at 13:45 of the middle frame to cut the deficit to, 2-1.
The B’s responded, though. Only 50 seconds later, Nathan Horton gave the Bruins back a two-goal lead, with what proved to be the winning tally. B’s Head Coach Claude Julien called it the turning point of the game.
“They scored a big goal, and obviously the fans got into it,” said Julien of Gardiner’s goal. “You could feel the electricity in the air. To me, that was probably a big turning point right there, that we could come back the next shift and score that big goal and, again, take that energy right out of the building.”
Daniel Paille then notched his second career postseason shorthanded goal 2:02 after the Horton’s score to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.
In the third, the Leafs swarmed. Phil Kessel would make it 4-2 with his second goal in as many games, 47 seconds into the final period, leading to a furious attempt at a rally by Toronto. As they tried to cut into the Bruins lead, they outshot Boston 18-6.
But with four minutes remaining in the game, and the Leafs still buzzing, Paille and his linemates, Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell, stepped up with a tremendous shot of energy. After spending much of the period pinned in their own end, the Bruins had their first shift of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
The Merlot Line spent almost a minute in the Leafs end and quieted the momentum Toronto had built. It was followed by another strong shift from the Patrice Bergeron line and, eventually, David Krejci was able to toss one into an empty net to seal the victory for the Bruins.
“They came in at us and pinched a lot harder and the forecheck was more than three guys,” said Paille of the Leafs heavy pressure in the third period. “For us, we just tried to change the momentum as quick as we could, We didn't get too many shifts out there as a line, but when we did, Thorty did a great job and Soupy, as well.”
Was the noise at the Air Canada Centre a factor in the game?
“Just turned out to be another game,” Paille said. “It was exciting, but at one point I just closed my eyes and didn't think that anybody was there. For me – I can't speak for anyone else – I was trying to just focus on our team and our game.
In the end, the Bruins didn’t let the crowd get into their heads. They used it to their advantage, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying it.
“Yes, by far,” said Milan Lucic, when asked if it was the loudest he had ever heard Air Canada Centre. “I think you can totally tell that they're more than excited that playoff hockey is back. It's the center of the hockey world and they deserve playoff hockey.
“Give them credit for the way they cheered here tonight, it looked pretty cool looking at them with their fancy white and blue scarves.
“It was definitely a fun game to be a part of.”