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Line Shuffling Provides A Spark

Pastrnak (two goals) shifts to Krejci line in Boston's Game 4 victory over Toronto

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

TORONTO - The Bruins did not hold a full pregame skate on Wednesday morning. As they prepared for their crucial Game 4 showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs, many of the B's felt it was best to get their work in off the ice.

As such, Boston's line combinations remained a mystery.

More clarity - it seemed, anyway - came when the Bruins took the ice for warmups, as David Pastrnak took his normal twirls alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen skating with the second and third lines, respectively.

But when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a little bit of gamesmanship is never out of the question. And when the starting lineups were announced, it was Heinen riding with Boston's top line, with Pastrnak shifting to David Krejci's right and Johansson to his now familiar left-wing spot next to Charlie Coyle.

That shuffling paid off.

The Bruins struck for a series-high six goals, with Pastrnak tallying his first two of the postseason, and held on for a 6-4 victory at Scotiabank Arena to knot their first-round series at two games apiece.

"I was told to warm up on [the third] line and got put on Bergy and Marchy's line," said Heinen, who posted an assist and a plus-2 rating. "It's [Cassidy's] stuff to think about and we just get ready to play with whoever we're with."

Video: Cassidy speaks after Game 4 win in Toronto

Cassidy's main objective was to get his top horses running in the right direction, particularly Pastrnak, who had been without a goal in the series. While both of his markers came with Bergeron and Marchand on the ice - one on the power play - the winger was clearly rejuvenated, landing six shots on goal in 16:53 of ice time.

"I think it sparked everybody to give them a little bit of a different look," said Pastrnak. "It was fun. I've played with [Krejci] a lot, know what to expect. We all know Heinz plays great with those guys. It's good for us."

The decision to spread the wealth also hinged on the health of Johansson, who missed Games 2 and 3 with illness. Once Cassidy confirmed that Johansson would be good to go he made the call to switch things up.

"I talked to the guys. I was thinking about it [on Tuesday]. Part of the problem was where was Marcus? Was he in or out?" said Cassidy. "We made the decision this afternoon once Marcus got through morning skate and everyone was good to go… Johansson's back in, so that gives us some more balance, a threat to score with Charlie, maybe a little more than what we had.

"Moved some pieces around, gives us a spark, maybe makes them think. You never know, might affect how they do things…at the end of the day, we still got Pasta back with Bergy a little bit…it worked out today."

Video: Pastrnak speaks after Game 4 win

That it did. Pastrnak struck for both of his goals within a 1:35 span of the second period, the barrage quickly shifting momentum after Toronto had overcome a 2-0 deficit to tie the game 1:07 into the middle frame.

Pastrnak answered with his first just over two minutes later to give the Bruins back the lead, as he tipped home a feed from Marchand off an even-strength rush. The second, at 4:51 of the middle period, was a one-timer on the power play, also off a dish from Marchand, who finished with three points.

"He's a guy we rely on to score and create offense," Cassidy said of Pastrnak. "He actually played a good 200-foot game, he's getting stronger on the walls, a better defensive player than when he broke into the league. Playing with that line, that's the expectation playing against good players. It was good to see him score.

"Scorers when they don't score, they can get antsy. I'm not saying David was there, but we wanted to keep him from getting there. Getting two goals, they get recharged."

Cassidy was also confident in the ability of Heinen to complement Marchand and Bergeron, following the winger's strong work in that spot during Pastrnak's month-long absence with a hand injury through February and March.

"Heinen has played with Bergy and March when Pasta missed four or five weeks," said Cassidy. "He did a good job up there, tailed off a little bit at the end. Not sure Danton can sustain it at this point of his career every night against top lines. He does a nice job in spots."

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm4: Pastrnak nets two 1:35 apart in 2nd

Heinen did just that on Wednesday night, contributing on two of Boston's six goals. He picked up an assist on Marchand's first-period tally, before providing a screen - along with Bergeron - on Zdeno Chara's eventual winning blast from the point early in the third.

"Obviously me and March have played with Danton for many games this year," said Bergeron. "We're used to him, but I definitely think that simplifying and bringing the puck on net, being hard on the forecheck, it just makes it easier…we all know what's gonna happen, and after that you can start making plays."

Cassidy's changes also benefitted both power-play units, which garnered a goal apiece. Johansson took the place of Jake DeBrusk on the top unit, with DeBrusk shifting down to the second with Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk manning the points.

McAvoy struck for the game's opening goal on the man advantage at 3:03 of the first, finishing off the Comm. Ave. connection, with assists going to fellow Boston University alums Charlie Coyle and Grzelcyk.

"Well, our second unit was able to play," said Cassidy. "We were first-unit dominant most of the season. Now we've got the second unit pitching in. We have a few ideas with Toronto, we've seen them now quite a bit over the last year, so there's certain plays we look for."

In the end, the tweaks paid dividends throughout the lineup, especially for Boston's leading men.

"They take pride on that - both ends of the ice. They want to be difference makers and today they were," Tuukka Rask said of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak. "It boosts everybody's confidence."

Video: Pastrnak, Marchand lead Bruins past Leafs in Game 4

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