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Bruins' shuffled lines provide spark in Game 4 win against Maple Leafs

Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand combine for six points in series-tying victory

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Danton Heinen could barely suppress a smile after the game. When he arrived at Scotiabank Arena for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday, he was told the news: He would be skating as the right wing on the Boston Bruins' top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, in place of David Pastrnak. But he was also told that, for line rushes in warmups, he would be skating as the left wing on the third line.

It was a bit of trickery for Bruce Cassidy, an unusual tactic for a normally straightforward and honest-to-a-fault coach. It was also an acknowledgement. 

The Bruins' top line hadn't been good enough in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak hadn't been their usual dominant selves, so something needed to be changed. The coach made the call Wednesday afternoon, once he knew that Marcus Johansson, who had missed the past two games with an illness, was healthy enough to play.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs series coverage]

 

And it couldn't have worked out better as the Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4, tying the best-of-7 series 2-2 with Game 5 at Boston on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NESN).

"I think big game, overall, for the whole team," Pastrnak said. "Not easy to win in this building. [Heck] of a win for us."

Though there were more than a few tense minutes in the third period, when Boston gave up two late goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled within one, the best of the Bruins came up big in Game 4: They got two goals from Pastrnak, one from Marchand and a combined six points from the three top forwards, matching what they had scored in the previous three games combined. 

"I think it sparked everybody," said Pastrnak, who was on a line with Jake DeBrusk and center David Krejci. "It gave them a little bit different look. It was fun."

And it happened quickly. 

The Bruins rushed out to a 2-0 lead with goals by Charlie McAvoy, on the power play at 3:03 of the first period, and Marchand, at 6:38 on a tap-in off a pass from McAvoy to the top of the crease. And they could have had another, had Frederik Andersen not come up with an impressive glove save off a wrist shot by Charlie Coyle at 7:04.

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm4: Marchand nets McAvoy's backdoor feed

But the Maple Leafs came back with two goals (Zach Hyman, 17:55 of the first; Auston Matthews, 1:07 of the second), and the Bruins had to once again assert themselves.

They did. Pastrnak came alive, with consecutive goals less than two minutes apart. With the top line briefly reunited after an icing call, Pastrnak first scored at 3:16 of the period after Marchand led him down the ice, feeding him the puck ahead of Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev for the tip. The second came 14 seconds into a power play at 4:51, off another feed from Marchand.

"It was good to see him score," Cassidy said. "Scorers when they don't score can get antsy. I'm not saying David was there, but we wanted to keep him from going there. Getting his two goals, they get recharged."

That certainly appeared to be the case for Pastrnak, a scary proposition for the Maple Leafs, especially after he torched them for 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in their seven-game series win in the first round last season. 

"He wasn't on top of his game, for whatever reason," Cassidy said. "Just moving some pieces around, hopefully it gives us a spark, maybe makes them think. You never know, it might affect how they do things. I don't think it did. They're going to play their game."

But, he said, "It worked out today."

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

The shift helped wake up the Bruins, made the passes suddenly crisper, the focus sharper, the results oh-so-much better. 

But the changes to the top line did not solve all their problems. They were fortunate to get a goal from Zdeno Chara at 5:39 of the third, which made it 5-2 and provided the margin they ultimately needed. 

But they suffered through push after push by the Maple Leafs, none scarier than the one in the third period, when they allowed two goals -- one by Matthews on the power play at 11:52, and one by Travis Dermott at 13:27 -- before sealing the game with an empty-net goal by Joakim Nordstrom with two seconds left. 

The fourth line, which was on the ice for the Dermott goal, seemed to rarely leave the defensive zone, and it is something that will have to be corrected -- and fast -- for Boston. 

Video: Bruins' top line better in Game 4, McAvoy stays calm

Ultimately, though, the Bruins got their groove back. They got Marchand back and Bergeron back and Pastrnak back. 
Not that Marchand, at least, had been feeling the pressure.

"We didn't [feel it]," Marchand said. "It's a group effort, each and every night. We don't expect to win games as a line. We expect to win games as every guy in here, as a team. Just because there's some outside pressure from the media doesn't mean that it enters the room. It means nothing in here."

Nor had Cassidy worried, especially about Marchand and Bergeron. He knew what he would get from his best. He believed in them. He always does. Even if he thought a little change might help. 

"Because they're gamers," Cassidy said. "They know that they haven't been at the top of their game, necessarily, for a few games. Listen, they were ready. They were in the hallway before the game, talking about certain plays. Those guys were dialed in. They're pros. They're top-end players. They're Stanley Cup champions. So those are not guys you worry about very often."

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