TORONTO -- Their usual magic is mesmerizing, the passes zipping around, crisp and on target, their shots dangerous, their dekes ankle breaking. But something was off in Game 3, and the top line for the Boston Bruins looked rusty, fallible, human.
It was not a good sign.
The line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak was a key reason why the Bruins advanced past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 Eastern Conference First Round in seven games. They combined for 30 points in the series, demonstrating just how important they are to the success of the Bruins, and how brilliant they can be together.
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]
It hasn't been that way this year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trio has combined for six points (three goals, three assists) in the three games, with just two of them coming at even strength. So it's not a coincidence that Boston finds itself down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series following a 3-2 loss to Toronto at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
"We just can't get any chances," Pastrnak said. "I think it's more on us, getting a bit frustrated. But it's a long series. We're going to regroup and focus on the other game."
Boston will try to even the series in Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN) and avoid returning home on the brink of elimination.
Video: Maple Leafs reclaim series lead with Game 3 win
To do that, the Bruins know they need more from their top line. They need them to get to the net, to score something ugly, to push even harder than they already have been. Because they know that if anyone can break through, it's those players, players who have driven them all season.
So far in this series, third-line center Charlie Coyle, who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, has been the Bruins' best forward. He scored his second goal of the series on Monday on the power play at 19:22 of the second period to cut it to 3-2 and continued to generate dangerous chances.
And that is a positive. But it is not enough. The Bruins need their second line -- led by David Krejci -- and they need their fourth line.
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Krejci lifts rebound over Andersen
Mostly, though, they need their top line. They need what is arguably the best line in hockey to be the best line in hockey, or at least the best line in the series, even with the difficult matchup the Maple Leafs have put against them.
It started early in Game 3 when Pastrnak could not connect on a golden chance in front of Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen at 9:11 of the first period. He was left alone, only to have the goalie make the stick save.
"[They're having] a tougher time getting to the net," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "And as a result, I think they're trying real hard 1-on-1 to get there and they've got to use each other a little bit better. … They're pretty determined guys. They'll find their way, but they're against a very committed fivesome right now to keeping them off the scoresheet. And again, that's a lot of playoff hockey."
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Andersen fends off Pastrnak and McAvoy
And that's part of the issue. The Bergeron line has been paired against the Maple Leafs line of Mitchell Marner-John Tavares-Zach Hyman, a significantly more difficult line to contain and to beat. And while they were able to keep the Tavares line off the scoresheet in Game 3, they were also kept off themselves.
"The last two games we've done of real good job with that," Cassidy said. "They've done a good job of defending, as well, our guys. I don't know if you're always in a hurry to get away from something that's kind of a seesaw battle. We have to rely on our other depth guys to score. We got that in Game 2."
But, Cassidy added, if the team feels that matchup is an impediment to scoring, they will consider breaking up the line. They've done it in the past and will not shy away from it in this series, with the likeliest scenario having Pastrnak move to Krejci's right wing.
"Honestly, I don't mind it," Cassidy said. "It's two good lines going head-to-head every night. It's going to tilt our way at some point. Our players are too good."
And they know all the things they need to do. They've done them all before. They need to spend more time in the offensive zone, need to hang onto the puck, need to push without forcing it. They need to make something happen, even against players who are trying desperately to prevent it.
They need to not care about scoring the pretty goals, and just score any goals they can.
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Coyle cashes in on power play
"That's what playoffs is all about," Bergeron said. "Definitely putting the puck on net, that's where you're scoring your goals at this time of year."
So what is the goal heading into Game 4?
"Probably simplifying, especially early on in games, and things usually open up," Bergeron said. "It's about doing that and, bottom line, being better and finding a way."