BOSTON, MA – The Bruins deserved a day off on Thursday, not solely because they took a 3-1 series lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, but because they earned some much needed R & R in the process.
In the Bruins 4-3 overtime victory in Game 4, do-anything-to-win mentality was on full display. Players were sacrificing, diving in front of shots, taking hits to make plays, drawing penalties with their faces.
Chris Kelly, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were all banged up in the win, but none were forced to leave the game.
Why? Because they’re hockey players – and it’s the postseason.
“It’s playoffs,” said Rich Peverley, when asked what it was like to see his teammates blocking shots and getting stitches during Game 4. “Everyone’s been through it. There’s going to be different injuries and things happen.
“This is playoffs, you’ve got to do whatever it takes.”
Perhaps the most memorable shift of Game 4 came just over four minutes into the second period. The Bruins were trailing 2-1, and Toronto was swarming in front of Tuukka Rask. Boychuk blocked a Leo Komarov shot in front with his ankle and fell to the ice.
The defenseman, from his stomach, then pushed the puck away twice with his glove, attempting to get it out of the slot. The Leafs kept the puck in and, somehow, Boychuk made it to his feet, using his stick as a crutch.
Shortly after gaining his feet, Boychuk blocked another Komarov shot by dropping to his knees. Again, he used his stick to get up off the ice and skated to the corner in an attempt to swat the puck away from Komarov. This sent him collapsing to the ice once more.
Finally, the Bruins were able to clear the puck and Boychuk, hobbled, made his way to the Boston bench and down the runway to the dressing room. He returned shortly thereafter and didn’t miss a beat.
“When you get shot on the ankle, sometimes you can't put any pressure on it,” Boychuk said during media availability at TD Garden Thursday afternoon. “They had control of the puck, I think, and they're not going to blow it, so you just try to block anything, do anything because you're not really doing any good if you're lying down. It's more of a bad situation.
“You just want to do something while the whistle's not blown.”
Rask appreciated the warrior-like effort of No. 55.
“That’s what he does,” said the B’s goaltender, who stopped 45 Toronto shots. “He’s great at [blocking shots]. He’s one of the best shot blockers. I don’t know if he likes doing that, but he does it. He’s really good at it. You can’t say enough, it makes my job easier.”
Lucic was bloodied in the final seconds of the first period after being hit with a redirected shot just above the right eye. And Kelly, who took a high stick to the right cheek early in the third period that resulted in a four-minute penalty on Nazem Kadri, was sporting a huge gash after the game. Both required stitches but missed minimal time.
This type of heart was on display right until the end of the game. With just over seven minutes to go in overtime, Horton took a huge hit from the Leafs’ Dion Phaneuf, just inside the Bruins blue line. Horton’s stick went flying into the air, but the winger still managed to get the puck to Krejci, who busted up the left wing with Lucic charging the net on the other side to form a two-on-one.
Krejci held, and held, and held before firing a wrister past Leafs goalie James Reimer for the winner.
“I knew he was coming,” said Horton of Phaneuf. “I tried get myself around him when I tipped the puck, and obviously he took me out, and I couldn’t get around him. But it worked out well because Dave got it.
“I was just trying to get up. Then I realized it was a two-on-one and I was pretty happy when I saw that they scored. I didn’t really see the goal because it hit [Reimer] a little bit and trickled in. But when I heard everybody cheering, I was pretty excited.”
It was a hectic night for B’s Head Coach Claude Julien, as he tried to focus on what was happening on the ice and what was going on in the trainer’s room.
“You’ve got to take it in stride, I guess,” said the B’s coach Thursday afternoon, on what his thought process was as he saw one player after another get banged up. “One guy’s in [the room], you’re told somebody’s in getting stitches and so on, so forth. Same thing with Looch, he got the stitches in between the first and second after he got hit, as well. Johnny Boychuk leaves the bench, you’re just hoping that you don’t get the news that they’re not coming back.
“That winning goal was one of those where you’ve got one eye looking at that outnumbered situation, the other eye looking at if your other guy is going to be getting up. It’s a little bit of both, but when that goal was scored the first thing I did was really look if Nathan was still on the ice or if he was up. He’s fine, it was just, like I said, a bit of body blow from an aggressive forecheck on [Dion] Phaneuf’s part and it ended up playing in our favor.
“So far, our guys have been pretty good warriors.”